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Teaching For Quality at University

Page history last edited by Daniel Feuer 14 years, 2 months ago

Teaching For Quality at University


In Teaching for Quality Learning at University, John Biggs defines good teaching as “getting most students to use the high-level cognitive processes that the more academic students use spontaneously.” This quote is emblematic of Biggs' approach to teaching: he thinks that good teaching involves engaging not just highly motivated students but reaching all students in a classroom and encouraging critical thinking amongst all of them.


Though Biggs speaks in technical language and does use graphs and charts fairly heavily, he does a good job of explaining what he is talking about. That said, the books remains a bit less approachable for the novice and more geared towards the professional. That's not to say that one cannot get anything out of it without having a background in the subject matter, but one will have to invest some energy to get up to speed in the terms Biggs utilizes.

Biggs outlines four features that are essential for good learning at the university level. First, Biggs emphasizes a well-structured knowledge base. Here, the focus is not simply on increasing a student's factual knowledge, but also in highlighting a student's current knowledge base and focusing on structural interconnections between topics that students may have previously considered unrelated.


Second, Biggs emphasizes the importance of having an appropriate motivational context. He argues that an appropriate motivational context is both a prerequisite for, and an outcome of, a good learning environment; good teaching will build on and encourage a student's intellectual interests.


Third, Biggs argues that learning should involve activity, particularly interaction with others. He believes that activity is both: (i) good in and of itself because it provides general alertness and efficiency, and (ii) can be keyed to specific objectives and utilize multiple sensory modes of learning to provide students diverse access to what is being learned.


Lastly, Biggs writes that various forms of self-monitoring are essential to, and will reinforce the benefits of, a good learning context. Self-monitoring can take several forms, from basic study skills, to preparation and review of material, and even to higher-level meta-reflection on the purposes and content of a course.


On the whole the book was useful guide to how to teach, not just for the sake of teaching, but for the sake of achieving high-level student learning. Biggs' focus on high-level learning is insightful and well defended, and his egalitarian teaching approac, ensures that all students strive for that level of learning, not just a select few within a given classroom.


Colin Donnaruma (5/13/08)


Edited by Daniel Feuer (12/06/08)

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