the onehe
A to Z of teaching

Our A to Z of Teaching was created for educators to use. It includes definitions of terms educators need to understand, such as constructive alignment or flipped classroom. Once you are logged into the OneHE community, there are short videos to explain each concept, crowd-sourced resources and links to recent articles.

Is there a missing term that you think should be added? Do you know a great resource we can include? If so, please recommend it and help us grow the A to Z of Teaching. 

AJAX progress indicator
  • action learning
    An approach to learning whereby individuals work on real projects with the support of a group (set) which meets regularly to help members reflect on their experience and to plan next actions. - Read more
  • action research
    A process of inquiry carried out in the course of an activity or occupation, in particular in the field of education, with the purpose of improving the methods and approaches of those involved. - Read more
  • active learning
    Active learning is a process that has student learning at its centre. It encourages educators to focus on how students learn, not just on what they learn, with the aim of moving away from students passively receiving information from the teacher. - Read more
  • Measurement of the achievement and progress of the learner. See programme-focused assessment, assessment literacy, formative assessment, summative assessment, authentic assessment, self-assessment, peer assessment, ipsative assessment, synoptic assessment.. - Read more
  • The focus on this assessment takes a holistic approach, looking at the development of learning, with a focus on the learners reflection on their own learning. - Read more
  • Staff and students understanding, and being absolutely clear, what the purpose of the different types of assessment are, to include how the assessments contribute to the achievement of learning outcomes. - Read more
  • Usually in the form of a matrix or grid, this is a tool used to interpret and grade students’ work against criteria and standards. - Read more
  • asynchronous learning
    A student-centred teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people. - Read more
  • Situating teaching and assessment in real world issues, problems and applications. - Read more
  • blended learning
    A mix of face-to-face and online learning. - Read more
  • buzz group
    A small group activity, typically within a large group, in which students work together on a short problem, task or discussion. So called because of the noise the activity generates. - Read more
  • case method
    A group learning activity in which students are presented with a case study depicting a genuine business scenario. They identify the business problems and ways they might be addressed through enquiry and analysis. Primarily facilitated rather than directly taught. - Read more
  • cognitive loading
    Often termed ?stretch?, ensuring that learning activities provide sufficient ?stretch? to take the learner to the next level of sophisticated thinking. - Read more
  • constructive alignment
    Ensuring, at least, learning outcomes, teaching methods, learning activities and assessment are compatible with each other. - Read more
  • constructivist
    A number of theories attempting to explain how human beings learn. Characterised by the idea of addition to, and amendment of, previous understanding or knowledge. Without such change, learning is not thought to occur. Theories of reflection and experiential learning belong to this school. - Read more
  • critical thinking (thinker)
    Critical thinking is the attempt to ask and answer questions systematically using words like what, who, where, when, how and why and phrases such as what if, what next, taking the process through description, analysis and evaluation. - Read more
  • decolonise
    Primarily used in the context of the curriculum, meaning creating spaces and resources for all to imagine themselves in the cultural and knowledge presentation, and how such constructs frame the various lens through which people view the subject matter. - Read more
  • deep (approach to learning)
    Learning that attempts to relate ideas together to understand underpinning theory and concepts, and to make meaning out of material under consideration (see also surface approach, strategic approach). - Read more
  • didactic teaching
    A style that is teacher-centred, often prescriptive, formulaic and based on transmission. - Read more
  • discourse analysis
    Examination of how communications - oral, written and body language fit together to make coherent meaning. - Read more
  • distance learning
    Learning remotely, away from the institution, without being in regular face-to-face contact with a teacher, as exemplified by the Open University. In the UK such learning has its roots in students learning through correspondence courses. - Read more
  • Open ended assessments designed to test learners thought processes, considered to be more authentic in terms of the development of higher level cognitive skills. - Read more
  • employability
    A set of achievements, skills, understandings and personal attributes that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations. - Read more
  • experiential learning
    Learning from doing. Often represented by the Kolb Learning Cycle. See also reflective practice. - Read more
  • facilitation
    As opposed to teacher, tutor or mentor, a role to encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own learning through the facilitation of this process. - Read more
  • facilitator
    As opposed to teacher, tutor or mentor, a role to encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own learning through the facilitation of this process. - Read more
  • Refers to information about student work and progress that focuses on future actions rather than past mistakes. The purpose of feedforward is to ensure that feedback clearly informs students' future learning. - Read more
  • Oral or written developmental advice on 'performance' so that the recipient has a better understanding of expected values, standards or criteria and can improve their performance. - Read more
  • feedback literacy
    Requires learners to act upon comments that they have received. - Read more
  • fieldwork
    Practical or experimental work away from the university designed to develop practical skills (e.g. observation of natural environments), which may be for a single session or coherent period of study lasting several days. Most common in life and environmental sciences, geography, civil engineering and construction. - Read more
  • flipped classroom
    Sessions that are premised on the understanding that students will have done all the preparation (e.g. reading, group work, question formulation, watched screencast lecture) beforehand, so that they come to the session ready to engage in interactive work around the preparatory work. The educator then focuses on the learning process and the areas where students need more help or testing understanding. - Read more
  • flipped learning
    Sessions that are premised on the understanding that students will have done all the preparation (e.g. reading, group work, question formulation, watched screencast lecture) beforehand, so that they come to the session ready to engage in interactive work around the preparatory work. - Read more
  • flipped lecture
    Sessions that are premised on the understanding that students will have done all the preparation (e.g. reading, group work, question formulation, watched screencast lecture) beforehand, so that they come to the session ready to engage in interactive work around the preparatory work. The educator then focuses on the learning process and the areas where students need more help or testing understanding. - Read more
  • focus group
    A technique for pooling thoughts, ideas and perceptions to ensure equal participation by all members of a group. Requires a facilitator. Some versions of the method aim to obtain a consensus view, others the weight and thrust of opinion. More accurately called nominal group technique. - Read more
  • Assessment that is used to help teachers and learners gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the learners' performance while there is still time to take action for improvement. Typically, it is expressed in words rather than marks or grades. Information about learners may be used diagnostically (see summative assessment). - Read more
  • gamification
    The application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. - Read more
  • graduate attributes
    The distinctive qualities, skills and understandings that each university considers its students will have on successful completion of their studies. - Read more
  • graduate demonstrators / teaching assistants (GTAs)
    Typically doctoral students who assist with teaching (e.g. facilitating seminars or demonstrating in laboratories/workshops). - Read more
  • Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR)
    Higher Education Achievement Report (http://www.hear.ac.uk). - Read more
  • Practice which addresses the learning styles and needs to each and every learner. See also universal design for learning. - Read more
  • independent learning (study)
    Often used interchangeably with the terms 'open learning', 'self-directed learning' and 'autonomous learning'. Has a flavour of all these terms. Often associated with programmes of study created individually for each learner. - Read more
  • industrial placements
    A learning experience offered to students to assist them to gain applied knowledge, understanding and skills through an extended period of time based in industry. - Read more
  • inter-professional education
    Refers to occasions when students from two or more professions in health and social care learn together during all or part of their professional training with the object of cultivating collaborative practice for providing client- or patient-centred health care. - Read more
  • internationalisation
    Curriculum materials/design that include content and approaches to promote student awareness of working/living in different countries and aid employability in a global job market. Also used to refer to the diversity of staff and students. - Read more
  • internationalising the curriculum
    Curriculum materials/design that include content and approaches to promote student awareness of working/living in different countries and aid employability in a global job market. Also used to refer to the diversity of staff and students. - Read more
  • learner analytics
    The increasing use of data to analyse students' progress, for example, module evaluations, on-line tests, other logged performance measures. - Read more
  • learning analytics
    The measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. - Read more
  • learning gain
    An attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education. - Read more
  • Specific statements that define the learning students are expected to have acquired on completion of a session, course, programme, module, or unit of study. - Read more
  • learning style
    Used to describe how learners differ in their tendencies or preferences to learn. Recognises learning differences, a mix of personality and cognitive processes. The notion of learning styles is increasingly challenged. - Read more
  • lecture capture
    Recordings of classroom-based activities that are made available for review after the class. - Read more
  • Massive Open Online Course
    An open access online learning course with unlimited participation. - Read more
  • mental health literacy
    Knowledge and beliefs about mental health and mental health issues which aid their recognition, management or prevention. - Read more
  • mentor
    A peer who supports and advises a new student or member of staff by helping him/her to adapt to institutional culture, acting as a sounding-board for ideas and encouraging reflection on practice. - Read more
  • The process for assuring that grades awarded are fair and reliable and that marking criteria have been applied appropriately and consistently. - Read more
  • MOOC
    An open access online learning course with unlimited participation. - Read more
  • Co-created with students, exploring what authentic assessment could comprise, which illustrate the achievement of learning outcomes. - Read more
  • Judges how well the learner has done in comparison with the norm established by their peers. - Read more
  • objectives
    Originally developed by educational psychologists and known as behavioural objectives. Definition and use have become less and less precise in recent years. Their meaning has ranged from exact, measurable outcomes of specific learning experiences to more generalised statements of learning outcomes. The term may be distinguished from or used interchangeably (but loosely) with the term 'learning outcomes'. - Read more
  • OneHE
    A global network for educators (those who teacher and support learning) in higher education. - Read more
  • online learning
    Courses offered by higher education institutions that are delivered virtually. - Read more
  • ownership of learning
    Developing autonomous learners, who take responsibility for their own learning. - Read more
  • Assessment by fellow (peer) students, as in peer assessment of team activities. - Read more
  • peer observation (of teaching)
    Observations of a peers teaching, often with a focus on particular aspects of the practice, thereby aiding learning on both sides, often promoting constructive dialogue. - Read more
  • peer review
    Deploying the expertise of peers to provide feedback on a range of aspects of academic practice. - Read more
  • peer teaching
    Tasking students to lead, e.g., problem solving classes, thereby supporting the confidence of both those teaching, and those working with someone who is closer in terms of understanding the difficulty in grasping particular topics. - Read more
  • placement
    Placing students outside their home institution for part of their period of study, often work placement in which the student learns on the job. - Read more
  • placement learning
    Students learning, as an integrated part of the curriculum, from the real experience of working in a place of employment. - Read more
  • Presenting others work as ones own. - Read more
  • play in higher education
    Play is ‘purposeless’ and ‘voluntary’. If you think it is play, then it is! - Read more
  • problem-based learning (PBL)
    A pedagogical method introduced in the 1960s, much used in medicine. Curriculum design involves a large amount of small-group teaching and claims greater alignment with sound educational principles. Learning and teaching come after learners identify their learning needs from a trigger in the form of a scenario (the problem). - Read more
  • All assessment is based on the programme learning outcomes. - Read more
  • reflexivity
    Standing back and thinking through, and analysing, cause and effect. - Read more
  • research-led teaching
    One style of incorporating research into teaching where students learn about research findings, the curriculum content is dominated by staff research interests and information transmission is the main teaching mode. - Read more
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
    Systematic inquiry into student learning which advances the practice of teaching. - Read more
  • self-assessment
    Making a judgement further to self-assessing. - Read more
  • self-directed learning (SDL)
    The learner has control over educational decisions, including goals, resources, methods and criteria for judging success. Often used just to mean any learning situation in which the learner has some influence on some of these aspects. - Read more
  • reflective teaching in higher education
    Teaching that is based on one’s own analysis, and reflections, of what is required to bring about effective learning. - Read more
  • seminar
    Used with different meanings according to discipline and type of institution. May be used to describe many forms of small group teaching. Traditionally one or more students present formal academic work (a paper) to peers and a tutor, followed by discussion. - Read more
  • simulated patient (SP)
    An actor or other third party who role-plays the part of the patient in a clinical encounter with dental, medical or similar students. - Read more
  • simulation
    Often associated with role play, but increasingly used in the context of information and communications technology. A learning activity that simulates a real-life scenario requiring participants to make choices that demonstrate cause and effect. - Read more
  • situated cognition/situated learning
    Learning and understanding often relates to and arises from (social) contexts. Those working in similar contexts (e.g. a discipline or profession) develop understanding about that context (see also Community of practice). In the case of language learning, assistance with vocabulary would be offered in the context of the environment rather than the other way around (see also activity theory). - Read more
  • small group teaching
    A term used to encompass all the various forms of teaching involving small groups of students, ranging from one-to-one sessions to groups of up to 25 (or even more) students. Includes tutorials, seminars, problem classes. - Read more
  • Social Network Analysis
    The process of investigating social structures by characterising networked structures in terms of nodes (individual actors, people, or things within the network) and the ties, edges, or links (relationships or interactions) that connect them. - Read more
  • soft skills
    A broad range of generic skills required for learning and employment, for example managing one's workload, communicating well, learning independently, problem solving, working effectively with others. - Read more
  • SOLO taxonomy
    The structure of observed learning outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy is a model that describes levels of increasing complexity in students' understanding of subjects. - Read more
  • SoTL
    Systematic inquiry into student learning which advances the practice of teaching. - Read more
  • student as producer
    Commissioning students to undertake particular pieces of work, to include research. - Read more
  • student engagement
    Has various meanings. In learning, the active interaction between the time, effort and other resources invested by both students, their teachers and institutions so as to optimise the student experience, enhance learning outcomes and the development of students. Can encompass students as partners (see also students as partners). - Read more
  • student journey
    The total lifecycle of the student, from pre-entry, through to on-going engagement, progress, and success, through to graduation and alumnae status. - Read more
  • student lifecycle
    Breaking down the student journey into the key components impacting on their engagement, progress and success. - Read more
  • students as partners
    Students, institutions (and policymakers at national level) working together for the benefit of the student experience. Implies students should be involved and consulted about virtually all aspects of their institution and their courses, implying two-way operation of responsibilities. - Read more
  • study abroad schemes
    A program, usually run through a university, which allows a student to live in a foreign country and attend a foreign university. - Read more
  • subject benchmarking
    A collection of discipline-specific statements relating to undergraduate programmes, as published by the QAA. Covers all the main disciplines. - Read more
  • The type of assessment that typically comes at the end of a module or section of learning and awards the learner with a final mark or grade for that section. The information about the learner is often used by third parties to inform decisions about the learner?s abilities. - Read more
  • supervision
    The relationship between a student and supervisor (member of staff) to facilitate learning and discovery, and to model professional behaviour. - Read more
  • surface approach to study
    Learning by students that focuses on the details of the learning experience and is based on memorising the details without any attempt to give them meaning beyond the factual level of understanding (see also deep approach, strategic approach). - Read more
  • surface learning
    See surface approach to study. - Read more
  • synchronous learning
    Refers to a learning environment in which everyone takes part at the same time. Lecture is an example of synchronous learning in a face-to-face environment, where learners and teachers are all in the same place at the same time. - Read more
  • teaching assistants
    A range of qualified, fractionally employed staff (increasingly includes PhD students), who are brought in to support teaching, learning and assessment activities. - Read more
  • teaching portfolio
    A personal document containing information about one's teaching activities, commentary and supporting evidence. Will include detailed personal reflection on practice and identify areas for enhancement. May also include student feedback and evaluative input from mentors and colleagues. - Read more
  • Team-Based Learning
    An evidence based collaborative learning teaching strategy designed around units of instruction, known as 'modules', that are taught in a three-step cycle: preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing, and application-focused exercise. - Read more
  • Technology Enhanced Learning
    Often used as a synonym for e-learning but can also be used to refer to technology enhanced classrooms and learning with technology, rather than just through technology. - Read more
  • threshold standards
    The basic expectations with respect to the necessary standard to be achieved, for example, to reach a quality kitemark. - Read more
  • transferable skills
    A collection of skills associated with employability. Variously includes communication, numeracy, learning to learn, values and integrity, use of technology, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, positive attitudes to change and teamworking. - Read more
  • transnational education (TNE)
    All types of HE study programmes, courses or educational services in which the learners are located in a country different from that of the awarding institution. - Read more
  • tutorials
    Used with different meanings according to discipline, type of institution, level and teaching and learning method. Involves a tutor with one or more students. May focus on academic and/or pastoral matters. - Read more
  • virtual learning environment (VLE)
    An online education system that models conventional in-person education by providing equivalent virtual access to classes, class content, tests, homework, grades, assessments and other external resources. It is also a social space where students and teacher can interact through threaded discussions or chat. - Read more
  • virtual reality (VR)
    A computer-generated interactive and immersive environment. - Read more
  • visual learning
    Visual learners learn best by seeing things in a pictorial format (see also kinaesthetic learning, read/write learning). - Read more
  • wicked competencies
    A problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognise. - Read more
  • wicked problems
    A problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognise. - Read more
  • work-based learning
    A type of curriculum design allowing content and learning to arise from within real working contexts. Students, usually employees, studying part-time and using their workplace to generate a project. Unlike PBL, work-based learners are working on real problems in real time. - Read more
  • Work-Integrated Learning (WIL)
    Educational activities that integrate academic learning of a discipline with its practical application in the workplace. - Read more

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become a member

OneHE is focused on better teaching and supports members to be better connected and informed in a questioning and caring environment. Learn more

All new members receive a 14 day trial period, during which no payments are taken.  

We charge a low membership fee (£3 per month for a Global Member) to keep the OneHE community free from advertising and to generate funding for member-led projects.

Fees are halved in low and medium income countries to encourage participation and create an inclusive global community. Find out whether you are eligible.

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