Teaching methods

When designing a programme or module, you'll need to think carefully about which teaching methods are most appropriate for different elements of the programme, and for the different learning styles of your students.

It is important that you take a programme level approach when deciding the modes of teaching and assessment to employ. This means ensuring they align with the programme learning outcomes and allow students the opportunity to learn in a variety of different ways (i.e. independent, research-led, group working etc).

Students being taught in lecture hall

Large group teaching

This mode of teaching is synonymous with the University experience for many students and allows academics to:

  • Plan teaching and set assessment deadlines easily, as this type of teaching usually conforms to a timetable.
  • Cover the basics of a topic over a set period of time (often one semester).

Key approaches and considerations:

In a large group setting it can be difficult to keep students engaged. Using interactive technologies such as clickers and apps, introducing short tasks and group/pair work, and proving feedback during the session can all help with student engagement.

Small group teaching

Also synonymous with the University experience, small group teaching can provide opportunties for:

  • Meaningful participation and interaction between you and your students
  • Peer to peer learning, where students learn from one another as they discuss and engage with the core teaching material.

Key approaches and considerations:

In small group teaching it's your responsibility to create an inclusive learning environment, where all students feel valued. This means adopting an objective but positive attitude when providing feedback and being patient when listening and communicating. Having strategies in place to cope with uneven group dynamics is also important, and shows that you understand and respect your student's needs.

Students having discussion in a seminar

Tecahing in lecture hall

Lab demonstrations

Practical lab-based classes are the backbone of learning and skills development in science, engineering and medicine degrees. This kind of teaching enables students to:

  • Engage in active learning and develop practical skills
  • Gain a deeper understanding of professional practice and of knowledge application

Key approaches and considerations:

You need to ensure the environment in which students are learning is safe and productive, and that students' progress and safety is checked throughout the session.

You should also help students recognise how the lession fits in with the principles of the discipline as a whole, and with their programme as a whole.

Clinical teaching

This mode of teaching introduces students to the realities of working in a particular field or industry work environment. This kind of teaching is constantly developing in line with advancements in technology and the changing needs of both the students and the health sector.

Like lab-based learning, clinical teaching gives students an opportunity to apply their knowledge within a practical, professional setting.

Key approaches and considerations:

Technology provides an innovative and creative way of enabling students to gain relevant experience in their field of study; immersing students in virtual environments such as the Academic Unit of Medical Education’s Serious Games introduces them to what could be real-life scenarios in the profession they are training.

Student in clinical dentistry setting

archeology dig 500x333

Field work

The opportunity to work off-campus in a relevant fieldsite is a fundamental learning experience in many academic disciplines, such as archeology and ecology. Field work allows students to:

  • Apply their knowledge in a practical setting
  • Engage in research

Key approaches and considerations:

As with any practical learning, it is important that you help students understand how the field work fits in with the wider programme, and contributes to the field as a whole.

You also have a duty of care when planning fieldwork to follow correct procedures and ensure students have a safe and productive learning experience.

Research supervision

Research projects, whether at UG or PG level, gives students the opportunity to:

  • Explore a topic in greater detail and with a degree of independence
  • Develop skills and attributes such as critical thinking, time management and data analysis. (See the Sheffield Graduate Attributes)

Key approaches and considerations:

Communicate - Research supervision should entail regular communication between you and your student. Set a reasonable meeting schedule which suits both of your availabilities.

Personalise your approach - Your role as a research supervisor will involve personalising your teaching methods to suit each student's needs.

Set expectations and boundaries - Establish a mutual understanding about the project's feasibility (what can be done and how long it will take), boundaries to the research (compliance with ethical standards and agreeing to a realistic workload), and the skills they will be expected to demonstrate throughout.

Student in research supervision