What we know: Conclusions

The ‘What we know’ theories are going to be published here as a series of blog posts over the coming weeks but are also available now collected as a free eBook from the OCSLD shop, where there are now four titles available. Our new book, Assessment Literacy: The Foundation for Improving Student Learning is available in paperback and kindle formats

Education is patently not an exact science. While the theories summarised above may be commonly accepted in the research literature, these ideas come with no guarantees.  Every context and every individual student is different.  The experience of higher education for the student will be an ever-changing collection of different combinations of factors and influences.

Teaching is a complex and dynamic activity that requires the teacher to make a multitude of decisions about goals, curriculum and strategies before, during and after each instructional episode.  It is both intellectually and emotionally challenging and demands a high degree of involvement by the teacher.  The often-frenetic pace of teaching does not leave much time to reflect, on the teaching-learning process.  Thus, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of action without reflection.

It may be therefore be helpful to explore the gap between ourselves and our learners in the knowledge, skills and attitudes which we consider important in the subject we teach, and how we can help them reduce that gap as they move through their course of study.

The fundamental challenge for the scholarly teacher who wants to improve the learning of their students is to understand these theories, to know which to choose and how to apply them in their teaching, and especially how to adapt them to different contexts.

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About the author

Chris Rust

Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, Oxford Brookes University. Before retiring in September, 2014, after over 25 years at Brookes, Chris had been Associate Dean (Academic Policy). Previously, for ten years, he was Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD), and Deputy Director of the Human Resource Directorate. Between 2005 – 2010 he was also a Deputy Director for two Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning – ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge Exchange) and the Reinvention Centre for undergraduate research (led by Warwick University).

In OCSLD, with thirteen colleagues, he helped to provide both staff and educational development support to the University’s academic Faculties and support Directorates for 23 years. For six years he was Course Leader for the University’s initial training course for new teaching staff.

He achieved a PhD by publication in 2003 and became a professor in March, 2010.

He has researched and published on a range of issues including:

  • the experiences of new teachers in HE
  • the positive effects of supplemental instruction
  • ways of diversifying assessment
  • improving student performance through engagement in the marking process
  • the effectiveness of workshops as a method of staff development.

Mostly he has focused on researching and writing about assessment, including:  improving student learning through active engagement with assessment feedback, and the significance of both explicit articulation and socialisation processes in improving students’ understanding of assessment requirements and assessment feedback.

He is also interested in the design, development and use of social learning space in universities, as well as the development of research-based learning in the undergraduate curriculum, including its potential effect on university organization.

In the 90s he contributed to the design and delivery of a national programme of staff development in higher education on the issue of teaching more students and over the years has run numerous workshops around the country and internationally on a range of issues including teaching large classes, developing assessment strategies, and engaging students with assessment and feedback.

Most recently he has been involved in a research project into the effectiveness of the external examiner system and how it might be improved

He has been a Fellow of the RSA, a Senior Fellow of SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) and was one of the first fourteen Senior Fellows of the UK Higher Education Academy, for whom he was also an accreditor.

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