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Common pedagogic strategies

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Case-based learning

Students analyse and respond to realistic scenarios, applying concepts and techniques.

"Using a case-based approach engages students in discussion of specific scenarios that resemble or typically are real-world examples. This method is learner-centered with intense interaction between participants as they build their knowledge and work together as a group to examine the case. The instructor's role is that of a facilitator while the students collaboratively analyze and address problems and resolve questions that have no single right answer." (Queens University Centre for Teaching and Learning, Canada)

Community-based learning

Students learn by participating in a community with shared purposes and practices.

Participating actively in the community is core to achieving the intended learning outcomes (not just as a support forum or social opportunity). This might be a pre-existing community, for example students being part of an international history research community. Or it might be a community developed specifically for the students, for example a community of students from different disciplines who are all undertaking undergraduate research projects. The community may operate with the features described in Communiities of Practice theory, but that is not essential.

Creative project-based learning

Students learn through undertaking creative projects (e.g. film making, creative non-fiction).

They use creative methods, engaging in reflective practice (as described by Schön, 1990), desiging, prototyping, presenting, peer-feedback etc.

It is important to be clear to what extent the development of creative project skills are a means to an end, or an end in themselves - what is the balance?

Schön, D. A. (1990). Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.



Experiential learning

Students learn by being embedded in real or realistic situations.

Learning by iteratively acting, reflecting, conceptualising, applying and testing learning.

Kolb's learning is commonly referred to as the origin of the pedagogy, but there are other more or less formal approaches. Kolb describes four stages:

  1. Concrete experience.
  2. Reflective observation.
  3. Abstract conceptualisation.
  4. Active experimentation.


Inquiry-based learning

Students learn by actively inquiring into a problem, topic, or challenge.

Learning through framing and answering questions, with guidance from the teacher, or from peers.

"Based on John Dewey’s philosophy that education begins with the curiosity of the learner, inquiry in the classroom places the responsibility for learning on the students and encourages them to arrive at an understanding of concepts by themselves. Lee et al. (2004) defined inquiry-based learning as an "array of classroom practices that promote student learning through guided and, increasingly, independent investigation of complex questions and problems, often for which there is no single answer” (p. 9). Students are supported in developing their abilities to: ask good questions, determine what needs to be learned and what resources are required in order to answer those questions, and share their learning with others."

(Queens Univeristy Centre for Teaching and Learning, Canada)

Lee, V. S., Greene, D. B., Odom, J., Schechter, E., & Slatta, R. W. (2004). What is inquiryguided learning. In V. S. Lee (Ed.), Teaching and learning through inquiry: A guidebook for institutions and instructors (pp. 3-15). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.




A default pedagogy in HE, focussed on the transmission of ideas and development of understanding.

Led by an expert lecturer, with testing and developing understanding in small groups (often by an assistant teacher), and verfication of learning in exams.

Lifelong learning

The student develops through many different formal and informal activities over time, during their degree, and beyond.

They actively join these up into a personal narrative, used to develop an individual approach, learning journey, and make plans for future actions.

Location-based learning

Learning takes place in a location other than the classroom, using the opportunities afforded by the environment and its features to enable different possibilities.

The location provides richer, or even essential opportuniites for learning. This may take place over short or long periods. It may be accompanied by sessions in physical or virtual classrooms.

Virtual reality may be used to allow students to visit othewise unaccessible places.



Performance and skills development

The student iteratively develops their ability to perform a range of tasks, improving based on expert feedback, self-evaluation, or peer-feedback.

The types of ability developed vary greatly in complexity and difficulty. Learning designs and techniques have evolved for some specific abilities (language learning, computer programming), but share some similarities.

Problem-based learning

Students respond to realistic problems, analysing and defining inquiry and problem-solving steps to apply and develop knowledge and understanding.

"In problem based learning (PBL) students use “triggers” from the problem case or scenario to define their own learning objectives. Subsequently they do independent, self directed study before returning to the group to discuss and refine their acquired knowledge. Thus, PBL is not about problem solving per se, but rather it uses appropriate problems to increase knowledge and understanding. The process is clearly defined, and the several variations that exist all follow a similar series of steps." (BMJ ABC of learning and teaching in medicine)


"For those undergraduates who had recently left a secondary school environment that was based on traditional pedagogy, they found the problem based strategies frustrating. Having not been empowered to be self-directed or to be involved in guiding their own learning, many wanted to be told what to do, how to go about it and what the results should look like." Barber, W. & King, S. (2016).


Provide additional support for interpreting information, decision making, planning etc. Build-in the use of tools to support these processes. Use learner analytics to track student engagement and progress in the early stages, or when there are significant challenges.

Public pedagogy

Students learn by engaging with the wider public.

See: Sandlin, Schultz, Burdick (2010), The Handbook of Public Pedagogy Education and Learning Beyond Schooling.



Research-based learning

Research-based learning is a form of inquiry-based learning, but with student research being recognised as a valid form of scholarly work in itself.

This goes beyond inquiry being just a means to the end of learning and assessment (see this article from Queen Mary University highlighting this distinction).

Students engage in authentic research processes, using disciplinary research methods, with the goal of producing new knowledge, disseminated publicly. The extent to which the students generate research questions, set the research agenda, design and manage projects etc. varies between disciplines (in sciences they tend to work within research teams), but is always greater than in traditional undergraduate studies. Journals and conferences exist as scholarly channels for disseminating student research.

International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR)
Reinvetion Journal of Undergraduate Research
Undergraduate Research Support Scheme (URSS)
Arts Faculty Student Research Portfolios scheme
Support for student research at Warwick from the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL)



Work-based learning

A form of location-based learning taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by the student's workplace, and ensuring learning is relevant to workplace practices and goals.

Cunningham et al. (2016) argue that work-based learning requires learning from work-based experiences. They distinguish this from workplace learning, which may include workers doing courses that do not closely relate to details and events in their work.

The Handbook of Work Based Learning provides a comprehensive account of common methods, including action research, mentoring, internships, learning resource centres, and coaching.