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.

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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
  • Reliability and validity are two important features in designing assessments. Reliability is concerned with the consistency of a measure. Validity refers to the accuracy of a measure - does the assessment test what it claims to be testing? - 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
  • augmented reality
    A combination of real and virtual (computer generated) worlds, where technology is used to add to a real world image. - Read more
  • Situating teaching and assessment in real world issues, problems and applications. - Read more
  • behaviourism
    Behaviourism in education is a 'traditional' approach to teaching and learning. A behaviourist pedagogy sees learning as educator-centred - the lecturer is the knowledge giver and leader. - Read more
  • blended learning
    A mix of face-to-face and online learning. - Read more
  • Bloom's taxonomy
    Bloom's taxonomy is a model which classifies learning objectives by complexity. It identifies six levels of learning, with learning at the higher levels dependent on having attained the required knowledge and skills at lower levels. - Read more
  • brainstorming
    An active learning technique used to gather ideas from a number of different people to solve a particular problem or to see what people already know about a particular issue. - Read more
  • Bruner
    Jerome Bruner (1915-2016) was an American psychologist, known for his contributions to cognitive learning theory. - 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
  • classroom management
    The process of preventing or minimising the impact of disruptive behaviour during lectures and seminars. Common techniques include setting clear expectations, building good relationships between students and educators, and teaching in an engaging manner. - 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
  • cognitivism
    A learning theory that focuses on the processes involved in learning, rather than on observed behavior. As opposed to behaviorists, cognitivists do not focus on an outward show of learning, but on the internal processes and connections that take place during learning. - 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
  • Assessments designed to measure student performance against a fixed set of predetermined criteria or learning standards - concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. - Read more
  • critical thinking
    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
  • curriculum
    The lectures, seminars, tutorials and academic content taught in an educational establishment. The curriculum refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet. - Read more
  • curriculum design
    In many cases, educators develop their own curricula, refining and improving them over years, although it is also common for educators to adapt lessons and syllabi created by other educators, use curriculum templates and guides to structure their lessons and courses, or purchase prepackaged curricula from individuals and companies. - Read more
  • decision making
    Aan active learning technique that identifies critical points in a problem given by the educator to their students. Students then discuss the decisions they'd make at each critical point, reflecting and evaluating throughout. - 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
  • differentiation
    A teaching technique that involves all students within the community of learners having access to a range of different methods for understanding new information. - Read more
  • direct instruction
    The use of teaching methods such as lecturing and modelling of a skill or technique to students. It is a core element of behaviourist pedagogies. - 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
  • e-learning
    Learning that uses electronic technologies to access the curriculum outside of a traditional classroom. We define e-Learning as courses that are specifically delivered via the internet to somewhere other than the classroom where the academic is teaching. - Read more
  • e-portfolio
    A collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. Such electronic evidence may include input text, electronic files, images, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. - Read more
  • educational technology
    Both hardware and software used to facilitate learning. It includes both e-learning, and the use of technology in face-to-face teaching. - 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
  • enquiry-based learning
    A form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios for students to solve. The aim is to gain and develop knowledge and skills through investigation, with detailed responses. - Read more
  • experiential learning
    Learning from doing. Often represented by the Kolb Learning Cycle. See also reflective practice. - 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
  • Information about student work and progress that focuses on future actions rather than past mistakes. The purpose of feed-forward 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 demonstrator
    Typically doctoral students who assist with teaching (e.g. facilitating seminars or demonstrating in laboratories/workshops). - Read more
  • group work
    Educators can often assign more complex, authentic problems to groups of students than they could to individuals. Group work also introduces more unpredictability in teaching, since groups may approach tasks and solve problems in novel, interesting ways. - Read more
  • GTA
    Typically doctoral students who assist with teaching (e.g. facilitating seminars or demonstrating in laboratories/workshops). - Read more
  • HEAR
    Higher Education Achievement Report ( - Read more
  • hidden curriculum
    The set of unofficial and often unintended lessons which students learn - for example, cultural values and acceptable behaviours. - Read more
  • hierarchical learning
    A system of classifying different types of learning in terms of the degree of complexity of the mental processes involved, proposed by the American educational psychologist Robert M. Gagn. - 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
    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
  • individualised learning
    A method of teaching in which content, technology and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interest of each learner. - Read more
  • industrial placement
    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