module specification

ED7137 - Theoretical Perspectives on Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title Theoretical Perspectives on Learning and Teaching in Higher Education
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 200
20 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
20 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
160 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Research paper
Running in 2019/20
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North To be arranged -

Module summary

The module explores, at an advanced level, psychological, socio-cultural, philosophical and educational theories, models and perspectives pertinent to learning and teaching in higher education, and considers the relevance and applicability of these theoretical perspectives to one’s own subject/professional context and practice

As a core module, the aim of TPLT is to add theoretical depth and breadth conducive to the development of the scholarship of teaching and learning.  It aims to provide an opportunity to:
· explore, at an advanced level, psychological, socio-cultural, philosophical and educational theories, models and perspectives pertinent to learning and teaching in higher education;
· consider the relevance and applicability of these theoretical perspectives to one’s own subject/professional context and practice through investigation of a relevant topic.

Prior learning requirements



Four inter-linking themes (covering various possible topics) are proposed:

1. Nature of learning – in-depth look at a sample of writers representative of the major different paradigms of learning theory: behaviourist theories, cognitive development and constructivist theories, humanistic and experiential learning theories, social/situated learning theories, connectivism LO 1, 3

2. Student learning – different typologies and factors impinging on student learning LO1, 3
• learning styles and study orientations (e.g. surface/deep/strategic)
• notions of knowledge and patterns of intellectual development
• impact of teaching context (such as class size, workload and assessment)
• cultural diversity, gender, affective aspects of learning, mature students

3. Nature of higher education – debates on the role and paradigms of HE LO2, 3
• tension between the ‘scientific’ (élite) vs ‘social’ (mass) role of the university
• the ‘academic literacies’ model (university study as induction into new discourses or ways of knowing)
• debates over competence/outcomes-based education
• employability agenda and critiques of market-driven HE

4. Notions of teaching in HE (this theme is intended to integrate the previous three) LO1, 3, 4
• conceptions of teaching (e.g. teacher- vs student-focused)
• facilitating ‘reflective learning’ – what is ‘reflection’?
• critical pedagogies (e.g. teaching as ‘dialogic mediation’ - an approach based on Bakhtin; applications of Freire; ‘participative assessment’; feminist pedagogy)
• ethics and values in HE teaching
• ‘models of the educator’ in HE
• scholarship of teaching & learning

These themes are explored cumulatively through the programme of seminars; it is a requirement of the assessment that all four themes are addressed in the research paper.

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Substantive independent study, in terms of preparation for class and research for the assignment, combines with seminar-based delivery, with occasional formal inputs to provide a conceptual framing of each theme and the whole. Core reading material is supplied together with questions for discussion and a supplementary bibliography.  Participants  contribute directly by presenting summaries of allocated readings. Tutor support is available with regards to seminar preparation and feedback, and assistance with planning and finding sources for the module assignment. The VLE is used to provide asssessment guidance, links to a range of online sources, for sharing synopses of seminar texts,  online discussion/debate and for assessment submission and feedback. 

The seminar where participants present initial ideas for their topics provides an opportunity for reflective learning as well as for obtaining peer feedback,  and the final paper should address implications for own L&T practice.

Learning outcomes

Participants should be able to:
1. View key issues in learning and teaching in higher education from a wide-ranging and comparative theoretical perspective.
2. Engage critically with current paradigms and debates about the nature and role of higher education.
3. Demonstrate critical, in-depth engagement with theory related to select aspects of learning and teaching in their own subject/professional area and context.
4. Elucidate the connections between such theory and educational practice in their academic/professional domain, including implications for improving and evaluating the quality of learning and teaching.

Assessment strategy

A secondary research paper (5000 words), entailing a critical review of a topic related to the main themes, with reference/application to teaching and learning in the participants' own subject/ professional area; draft work to be presented at a research seminar towards the end of the module.  Peer/tutor feedback to be addressed in the final paper.

The seminar presentation of draft work is the main opportunity for formative feedback; summative feedback is provided on the final paper.


Core Text:
Pokorny, H & Warren, D (2016) Enhancing Teaching Practice in Higher Education (Sage)

Themed sources (select)
(a) Learning Theory
Sutherland, P. (ed) (1998) Adult Learning: A Reader. (Kogan Page)
Illeris, K (ed) (2008) Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists in their own words (Routledge)
Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning. (Prentice-Hall)
Wertsch, J.V. (1985) Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind. (Harvard University Press)
Wenger, E (1998) Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. (Cambridge University Press)

(b)  Student Learning
Quaye, S & Harper, S (eds) (2014) Student Engagement in Higher Education (Routledge)
Strayhorn, T (2015) Student Development Theory in Higher Education (Routledge)
Barnett, R (2007) A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty (Open University Press)
Ellis, R & Goodyear, P (2010) Students’ Experiences of E-Learning in Higher Education (Routledge)
Marton, F., Hounsell, D. & Entwistle, N.J. (eds) (1997) The Experience of Learning: Implications for Teaching and Studying in Higher Education, 2nd edition. (Scottish Academic Press)

(c) Nature of Higher Education
Barnett, R. (1997) Higher Education: A Critical Business. ( SRHE & Open University Press).
Barnett, R (2013) Imagining the University (Routledge)
Deem, R et al (2007) Knowledge, Higher Education and the New Managerialism (Oxford University Press)
Jones, E & Brown, S (eds) (2007) Internationalising Higher Education (Routledge)
Molesworth, M et al (eds) (2011) The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer (Routledge)
Watson, D et al (2011) The Engaged University:  International Perspectives on Civic Engagement (Routledge)

(d) Teaching in Higher Education
Ashwin, P et al (2015) Reflective Teaching in Higher Education (Bloomsbury Academic)
Weller, S (2015) Academic practice : developing as a professional in higher education (Sage)
Lea, J (ed) (2015) Enhancing learning and teaching in higher education : engaging with the dimensions of practice (Open University Press)
Light, G., Cox, R. & Calkins, S (2009) Learning and Teaching in Higher Education:  TheReflective   Professional  (Sage)
Biggs, J. & Tang, C (2007) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. McGraw-Hill
Entwistle, N (2009) Teaching for Understanding at University: Deep Approaches & Distinctive Ways of Thinking (Palgrave Macmillan)
Brockbank, A & McGill, I (1999) Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press.
Moon, J (2004) A Handbook of Reflective & Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice (RoutledgeFalmer)
Land, R., Cousin, G., Meyer, J. H. F. & Davies, P. (2005) Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (3): implications for course design and evaluation, in: C. Rust (Ed.) Improving student learning: diversity and inclusivity (Oxford, OCSLD), 53–64.

Active Learning in Higher Education
Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
Higher Education
Higher Education Research and Development
Innovations in Education and Teaching International
Studies in Higher Education
Teaching in Higher Education

Electronic Databases: Education Research Complete