- Establish learning objectives – demanding but achievable.
- Strive for a variety of teaching methods with emphasis on the active involvement of students (problematic, research, collaborative… teaching).
- Motivate students and encourage them to seek out advice.
- During a course, obtain feedback from students and carry out evaluations of yourself and students.
- Establish a learning schedule for students.
- Specify study materials and differentiate between required and recommended materials.
- Familiarize students with requirements and define the form and scope of exams.
- Don’t only verify knowledge, but also skills and competence (higher cognitive objectives in Bloom’s taxonomy).
- During evaluation, provide students with feedback and strive for an incentive effect.
- Do not tolerate cheating or other undesirable student conduct during exams.
Prior to implementing a course or subject matter:
Establishing the objectives and content of an area of study and all of its subject matter is a never-ending process. Not only instructors but also students and graduates should take part in it. The preparation of instruction thus becomes an integral part of the teaching process itself. As a result, both the instructor and students have the opportunity to implement the principles of academic education – instead of a one-sided form of obtaining information, all participants in the process are actively involved. In addition, the partnership between instructors and students is strengthened.
The more actively students are involved in education, the more successful it is. It is, therefore, not only about the learning or teaching itself, but also about motivation. This applies to specific courses and the entire programme of study (why I study, the potential of my subject area…). Integrating innovative forms and methods of teaching (e.g. research-oriented teaching, flipped learning…) can be useful. Careful formulation of learning objectives and outcomes is also important, i.e. what the graduate will know, understand, and be able to accomplish.
Let’s promote good practices and share our positive experiences!
Establishing learning objectives
- We strive to formulate learning objectives with respect to the target skills after completing a course (What a student can do, will be able to do…). We use active verbs – e.g. “describe the relationship between…”, “evaluate…”, “draw conclusions”, “justify procedures”, “critique”…
- Learning objectives should be demanding, but also attainable for most students.
- We choose objectives corresponding to competence and skills that students will actually need in the real world.
- We make every effort to communicate with other instructors in a programme of study and to coordinate what knowledge and skills students learn in individual courses and what approaches they are guided by. The instruction of all subject matter and courses should relate to the graduate profile for the entire area of study. Preventing unnecessary overlaps among courses is also important.
Preparing subject matter/courses
- When preparing subject matter/courses, we use learning methods and tools that motivate students to actively engage.
- In addition to knowledge, we ensure that students also learn new skills and acquire professional habits and attitudes. Students will react in a positive manner if they are not required to simply remember facts and reproduce them.
- The content of studies should first and foremost reflect the current state of knowledge and focus on acquiring the skills and strategies needed in the future. The complexity of the material, the importance and relevance of topics, the initial knowledge and skills of students, and the availability of literature and other study aids should all be taking into consideration.
Good instructors are able to motivate students during their courses. They encourage them to be active and to ask questions, and they contextualize problems and provide feedback. They use methods that engage students and actively involve them in the learning process. They regularly receive feedback from students, evaluate this feedback, and take it into account when preparing lessons.
Feedback for instructors
- Get feedback from your students and use it to improve instruction (encourage consultation, provide bonus tasks – motivational or group). Do not be afraid of negative feedback – mistakes are a very value source of information.
- Regularly verify how effective the specific parts of instruction are. Find out on a regular basis what knowledge and skills students have acquired. Do not be afraid to modify instruction based on results even during the current semester.
- Nurture mutual respect among instructors and students. This will help you receive more meaningful feedback.
- Ask some of your colleagues to attend your courses. Their observations and suggestions will help you make improvements.
- Devote some time to self-evaluation. Think about how the individual parts of instruction have met your expectations, whether the instruction was attractive for students or what you would do differently next time. A simple tool is a start/stop/continue questionnaire, in which we ask: What do students lack in instruction? What are they not happy with? Or what do they like and should be used more frequently? The “one-minute summary” can be used in the same way.
Feedback for students
- Frequent feedback is an effective way to support learning. Also look for informal opportunities to provide feedback.
- Appreciate even small amounts of progress. Rather than criticizing what students have not achieved, help show them how they can develop further.
- Create an environment where students will not be afraid to make mistakes. Show them how valuable mistakes are for education. Make use of any errors in discussions. Resolving these errors can help students better understand the material. By enabling students to understand the consequences of common mistakes in a safe teaching environment, you can help them avoid making the same mistakes in practice.
- A more relaxed atmosphere, a more personal approach, or humour can help during large lectures.
Team work and resolving problems together
- Team spirit and a comfortable atmosphere have a positive effect on courses. Therefore, if the nature of a course allows it, use cooperative learning or some of the techniques that strengthen relationships between students.
- Let students resolve problems in smaller groups and in larger teams – during instruction as well as during specific tests and study checks. Help them learn how to collaborate, which is a key skill for many professions.
- Encourage students to help each other during their studies, to tutor each other, and to consult with each other. Teaching will then be more effective, and students will acquire a number of new skills. In another course, their roles could be reversed.
- Try to add small-problem tasks to your teaching – for example, let students “fill in the blanks” in a text, reveal inconsistent passages in a text or part of a diagram. Encourage students to learn principles and to be able to identify and formulate problems.
- Assign tasks for studying so that students can use the acquired information in a future lecture or lesson.
- Do not be afraid to let a group of students solve a problem from an area you have not theoretically discussed with them. They can do much of it without your assistance. Your explanation will help put their experiences into context and complement and summarize them. The addition itself will be much more attractive for students.
- Take advantage of the full range of complexity for the tasks you assign students. Easier tasks will encourage them, and difficult ones will be a challenge for the best of them. You will also gain more information about their acquired knowledge and skills, which will help you with future instruction.
- Show students what they have learned and what they can do. Encourage them to get some kind of satisfaction out of knowledge. Remind them that they are learning for their future professions, and show them how important the skills they have acquired during your course are.
Defining rules and timely scheduling of instruction
- At the beginning of a course, tell students what you expect from them – the scope of homework, forms of individual or team work, deadlines and methods for submitting work. Establish and communicate the “rules of the game” in class instruction.
- Prepare a schedule for students to map out their progress in learning. Make sure that this schedule is realistic and that the expected scope of the preparation corresponds to the actual possibilities of students.
- Clearly inform students what their learning outcomes should be, i.e. what they will learn in each lecture, seminar, or training session.
- Inform students at every lecture or lesson what is expected of them the next time and what preparation is required or recommended.
- Specify study materials (literature, etc.) and indicate which are required and which are recommended.
- Define the form and scope of grading and exams immediately at the beginning of a course. Specify the topics and areas that will be covered in exams – test according to the set learning outcomes.
- Acquaint students with the code of examination. Set the rules for grading, the number of times for resitting an exam, the rules for a board exam, the terms for repeating course enrolment, the requirements for acknowledging exams.
- In all situations, conduct yourself in a professional manner – during instruction, outside of class, and during informal gatherings. Behave as you would like graduates to behave in their future profession. Students are more likely to follow the rules when they see that you follow them yourself.
The basic purpose and function of evaluation is to provide feedback relating to the results achieved. If the evaluation fulfils this function, it must always include information about how students have achieved the expected results and how they have not.
- Prepare the requirements for an exam so that they correspond to the learning outcomes.
- Set clear evaluation criteria for assessing students (“what will be evaluated”), define the process of examination (the form of presenting questions, the preparation period, the exam duration, etc.). Set the exam terms sufficiently in advance.
- Use a wide range of evaluation methods. For summative assessments, thoroughly verify their validity and use them in accordance with good practice. Educate yourself in the methods of evaluating knowledge and skills.
- Tests should include all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
- Test what the students know, not what they don’t know. Do not try to surprise them. Uphold the principle of academic optimism – instructors try to build on a student’s positive qualities.
- Do not assess only the results of an exam but also the entire process. Clearly inform students of exam results and other procedures. During oral exams and tests assessed by evaluators, always inform students how you assigned the grades. Strive to make the evaluation motivational in character.
- From the results of the evaluation, draw conclusions for future teaching and possible modifications.
- Do everything in your power to alleviate any anxiety caused by evaluation. During testing, always be fair and professional and strive to create a friendly atmosphere.
- Announce results in an appropriate and timely manner.
- Do not tolerate any expression of aggression, submissiveness, cheating, and other undesirable conduct of students relating to exams.
Glossary of terms:
What we want students to learn in our courses.
Students should know how to describe the structure of hard tissues and soft tissues of the tooth, including the differences between individual teeth. They should be able to recognize tissues under a microscope and discuss their function. They should be able to predict the consequences of disorders in normal tooth structures.
What do graduates of our courses know? What task and problems can they solve? How do they practically use what they have learned?
This is a list of verifiable, achievable, and measurable assignments that are clear, freely available, and understandable to everyone. After completing these outcomes, we can be fully satisfied with a student’s progress. We use them to verify, test, and evaluate, regardless of who the examiner is.
They are the basis of the accreditation and international comparability of a course and a measure of its prestige and complexity. Guarantors of related courses can map out the competencies of their graduates from these learning outcomes. For students, they are a guide for responsible and thorough preparation for an exam and help to reveal what is really important in the abundance of available materials.
Define and use the following terms in an appropriate context: gingiva, marginal gingiva, dentogingival junction, hemidesmosome, sulcus gingivalis, alveolar gingiva, gingival (interdental) papilla; tooth, crown, neck, root, medullary cavity, root canal, apical opening of tooth, enamel, enamel prisms, ameloblast …
Draw and describe the structure of the tooth according to the actual specimen under the microscope.
Compare the structure and occurrence of predentin, primary dentin, secondary dentin, and tertiary dentin.
Discuss the effect of dentogingival junction and the depth of sulcus gingivalis on the periodontal function and condition.
Estimate the effect of reduced salivation on the condition of the oral mucosa and teeth.
Creating learning outcomes can be difficult, but they cannot be replaced. The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of when we have learning outcomes and when we don’t.
|If we have learning outcomes published for our course/subject area||If we have not created or published learning outcomes|
|From the instructor’s perspective|
|A clear document that the instructors must agree on and in which they have defined what they actually require from the students and how to test them on it.||Every instructor can require something different from the students. Thus, the validity of testing is compromised.|
|New instructors for a course know what they should require of students.||It could take several semesters for new instructors to prepare their students well for course work and exams.|
|The rich pedagogical experience of examiners, who know very well “what to ask” is used and preserved in writing here.||It is difficult for new instructors to build on the experience of other examiners.|
|A clear guide for teaching effectively.||Work “saved” in the absence of learning outcomes leads to confusion as to what is worth including in a class and what is not.|
|A feeling that we are teaching according to evidence-based teaching (see glossary of terms).||Teaching according to principles other than those supported by verified and published studies is difficult to defend.|
|Option to compare with foreign and international courses, where documented learning outcomes are a matter of course.||Unclear compatibility and comparability with the teaching of my course in a foreign environment.|
|You have an answer for instructors of related courses if they ask “what can your graduates do”?||You have difficulty answering this question.|
|Shifting the attention from “what we teach” to “What can our students do”. This is not the same.||How do we resolve the absence of a document describing what our graduates can do?|
|Compiling tests and exam questions is relatively easy because it follows directly from the learning outcomes. What is to be the basis of evaluation must be important for the subject area – and what is important should not be concealed.||Difficulty defending the composition of tests. If they are not based on defined learning outcomes, then what are they based on? Instructors surprise student during an exam, i.e. they ask about things that students do not anticipate and are not prepared for.|
|We can demonstrate to students what is really important from the entire course.||We leave students feeling uncertain about what really matters.|
|Opportunity to look at the learning outcomes of related courses.||It is not easy to find out what students who come from other courses know.|
|From the student’s perspective|
|I know what I should learn and how I will be graded.||I am stressed out about what may or may not be part of tests and evaluations. But because I’m still interested, I’m wasting my time and nerves with speculation and rumours and “reliable news” on this subject.|
|I can verify before an exam whether I am well prepared.||Sometimes it is only during the exam that I find out whether I have succeeded in meeting the examiner’s requirements.|
|It is easier for me to orientate myself with the many resources and materials and to choose what is most important from them.||I study with the risk of devoting energy to irrelevant and marginal knowledge, and I do not have time for really important knowledge.|
|From the perspective of the faculty or guarantor of instruction|
|Thanks to the conciseness of learning outcomes, I can map out the curriculum, especially the connection between courses, or unknown areas that no one teaches or tests on, or, on the contrary, duplications.||It is almost impossible to map out which requirements students must meet in the programme of study or subject area as a whole.|
|It is a mandatory part of all accreditations. We supplement it with a document that also has content and meaning for us.||We add imperfect documents to the accreditations “so that nobody will say anything” or “to satisfy the bureaucracy”.|
|The constant refinement and updating of these public documents ensures that the curriculum is up-to-date.||The risk of outdated instruction or its detachment from the needs of employers.|
|Great promotional materials. An internationally comprehensible document demonstrating “what our graduate can do” and “how we know that they can really do it”.||As a student considering where I will study, I would think twice before tying my fate to a course or subject area that does not have a detailed written description of what the result of a particular lesson is or what specific skills and tasks I will be able to manage after graduation.|
Bloom’s taxonomy is a multi-level hierarchy of objectives and skills for learning. It answers the question how do I organize learning outcomes and how do I select the relationships between the various types of questions for testing.
The taxonomy levels form a pyramid (the higher numbers mean a higher and more complicated level):
1. Remembering knowledge
3. Use, application of knowledge, solving problems
4. Analysis of problems
5. Evaluation and synthesis
6. Creation of new values, decision-making
This approach makes it easier to find balanced relationships between different types of learning outcomes. From these, it is then possible to create the structure of teaching hours and to define the content of testing as follows: define the result → select the appropriate form and scope of instruction → adequately define the scope and form of testing.
The instructor describes in detail: What should the students remember? What should they be able to recall from their long-term memory? What should students understand and how best to demonstrate this? What should students be able to use? How should they be able to use knowledge and skills? To solve which problems? How should students be able to analyse a situation, problem, or concept? How should they be able to describe the relationships between the individual components of the problem? What should students be able to evaluate? What conclusions should be drawn and on what rules should the conclusions be based? What should students be able to create, for whom should the output be understandable, and for whom should it be usable?