Active and enables expression

We value learning that encourages experimentation, practice and production

Learners must have learning opportunities that encourage experimentation and production; they should be able to express their voice in the curriculum.

Design learning activities that go beyond watching, reading and listening. Students should be engaged in other forms of learning such as discussion, critique, reflection, production, investigation and evaluation

Evidence suggests that the wider and richer learning opportunities students have the deeper their learning will become. Providing facts encourages rote learning and short-term memorisation. To encourage deeper learning, students need to practice and explore their understanding of the key concepts.


  • Plan your lectures/workshops combining your lecturing with other activities such as question and answer, group discussions, finding a solution to a small problem, demonstration, simulation or role-play. For each minute of lecturing there should be at least 2 minutes of other activities
  • Avoid delivering only theoretical sessions. Content should be delivered with its immediate application in a scenario. The more real the scenario is the more immersive the learning experience will become.

Encourage students to articulate their thinking openly in trusting and respectful environments

Some students may not feel confident in expressing their own views and may be intimidated by their colleagues or by their lecturer. This is particularly evident in situations where English is not a student’s first language and/or their own cultural background does not foster speaking in public or asking questions of the lecturer.


  • From day one, you should explain the ground rules and make it clear that the classroom is a safe environment for everyone to ask questions and intervene -there are no stupid questions, only personal learning moments
  • Try to be as collegial as possible and demonstrate that you can see the student’s point of view by complimenting a student’s response, even if it is not the correct one
  • Ensure there is shared respect between yourself and the students and between themselves – the student-lecturer relationship should be one of mutual respect.
  • Deliver to your students the ‘Improving Students Confidence’ guide, which has been developed to help your students build their confidence. Although this guide presents top tips to encourage students to boost their confidence and sense of belonging at the Universality, there is flexibility on how this guide can be implement into your session.

Provide opportunities for students to have an input into their learning journeys as partners

The students’ voices and their agency are two extremely important areas in terms of the National Students Survey and the students’ learning journeys. Students appreciate having an opportunity to contribute both to their learning and the learning of others. By making their voices impactful, we are not just making learning more authentic and relevant, but also providing a sense of belonging (Healey, Flint and Harrington; 2014; Thomas, 2015).


  • Module Evaluation Surveys and staff students’ committees should be used effectively and when changes are made based on student’s feedback they should be clearly signposted so that students can see their voices make a difference
  • Assessment criteria and assessment briefs should be discussed with students as well as what is intended from the assessment. If needed small changes in the wording can be made to clarify the assessment brief according to students’ suggestions. More extensive changes cannot be made in year, but students’ ideas can be made to improve it for following cohorts
  • Enable students to find their own examples and learning materials provided they are addressing the intended learning outcomes and topics
  • At level 6 and 7 let your students organize and present a seminar/workshop about a given topic to their peers and engage them in conversations about what they found and other ways of seeing the subject matter – An example of student-led workshops/seminars is the AIM (Achieve, Inspire, Motivate) Project, which aims to enhance student experience and sense of belonging via an authentic and inclusive learning environment.

Support students that are not yet aligned with student-centered or active learning approaches

 Whilst enabling expression, it is important to recognise that some students may not feel as prepared to share and engage in active learning as others and so expressing themselves may be done in different ways or in alternative environments. International students with some limitations in the use of English or students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are examples of those who may not feel prepared to engage with more active learning-oriented activities.


  • Provide a safer and closer environment for them to share their learning, i.e. in your office or after the lecture/workshop or in very small groups
  • Recognise that some students may not want to share their learning in groups so may need to be quieter during discussions or may not want to answer your questions out loud. Allow them to do so through discussions on BB or during a personal tutorial
  • Some students will find online discussions liberating because they have some ‘anonimity’. However, others, particularly those who are responsive to non-verbal communication may find it challenging and so, if using online discussions, you need to identify the ‘ghosts’ who do not contribute and communicate directly with them to check that they are engaging even if they are not contributing.

Develop strategies for sharing and generating knowledge

Social constructivism and connectivism theories imply that students learn together in context (socially situated) and knowledge is built by interacting with other learners’ knowledge and experiences. By creating open activities that allow students to draw on their own knowledge, interests and experiences while encouraging them to share these with their peers, we are providing a richer learning environment (Hockings et al. 2010)


  • Create discussion forums where students can share their understanding or their experiences around a given topic or a given question
  • Develop activities where students can comment on their peers’ interactions by reflecting on, and comparing and contrasting the different responses. You should explain that in this way students are developing the critical thinking skills of analysis, interpretation and evaluation.

Encourage a positive attitude towards diversity and opportunities for students to voice differences in opinion and/or perspective

A correct approach to diversity suggests that lecturers should be open to others’ views so that everyone’s voice is heard, and students don’t feel excluded. Research has found that patterns of teachers and students’ interactions, teachers’ identities (Mertz, 2007), or the predominance of one gender (Clegg, 2000), race, sexual orientation, age (Bowl, 2005) or religion may impact negatively on the under-represented groups in a cohort. Hockings et al. (2009) argue that teachers’ understanding of, and attitudes towards, student diversity can influence their teaching practice.


  • Try to make groups as heterogeneous as possible and try to avoiding clustering in the classroom. The more diverse a group is the richer the learning experience will become
  • From day one, you should explain the ground rules and make it clear that the classroom is a safe environment for everyone to ask questions and intervene
  • Encourage those that want to share their difference of opinion to do so but emphasise that they must respect those who are not comfortable in doing so.

Tailor or target the curriculum for communities and/or target groups as it widens participation and promote retention

Studies focussing on what can be done to make the curriculum more inclusive suggest addressing specific interests and promoting student choice (Koro-Ljungberg, 2007; Crosling et al., 2008).


  • Encourage the wider community of students to engage with problems affecting the underrepresented communities so that the former may appreciate the different realities and learn from being exposed to them, and can help to meet the needs of the underrepresented students and make them realise they are valued
  • Enable choice in the scenarios or problems you are asking your students to resolve. The bigger the choice, the more likely that they will be relevant for each student’s characteristics and the more engaged they will become.

Further resources