Taking Stock: Symposium on Teaching and Learning Research in Higher Education

What is known about student learning in higher education?  Where are the apparent gaps in our understanding?  What are the implications this knowledge may have on improving the quality of education at institutions?  On April 25 and 26, 2008, researchers, faculty, educational developers and senior administrators from institutions around the world attempted to answer these questions at an international conference sponsored by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

The Symposium on Teaching and Learning Research in Higher Education was conceptualized and facilitated by Julia Christensen Hughes and Joy Mighty, past and current presidents of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE).  Participants came from Ontario universities and colleges as well as from other parts of Canada (British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) and beyond (the U.S., the UK, Finland, Australia and Hong Kong).

The format of the symposium included keynote presentations by Noel Entwistle, Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh and Keith Trigwell, Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Sydney.  Four panel presentations, three sets of facilitated roundtables and discussion periods completed the two-day symposium.

The findings from the symposium suggested the following:

  • There is a relationship between how faculty teach and how students learn;
  • There is a relationship between how students learn and the learning outcomes achieved;
  • There is much that faculty can do in support of deep learning and organized effort;
  • The majority of faculty continue to teach in traditional teacher-centred ways, resulting in on-going, system-wide learning deficits;
  • There are barriers within and outside an institution that make bringing about changes to teaching more difficult (class size, time constraints associated with research focus,  competing demands, reward structures, etc)

The symposium formed an integral part of HEQCO’s mandate to identify and implement effective teaching and learning practices in Ontario’s postsecondary institutions.  By doing so, HEQCO can ensure that students will learn in the most stimulating environments that Ontario has to offer.

For more information on the findings from the event, click here to download the complete report written by Julia Christensen Hughes and Joy Mighty.