Methods used in teaching and assessment
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This page mainly gives definitions. There are some examples of e-learning methods, notably blogs and wikis, at the examples page, and some documents on this topic at the pages under the References heading in the menu.

authentic assessment

blogging - blogs provide an alternative or addition to more traditional forms of student writing.

case method of teaching - particularly associated with the teaching of MBA students at the Harvard Business School

casebook method - the main method used for teaching law in some countries

case study

cloze tests

collaborative learning

concept maps

critical incident technique - This dictionary entry focuses on the use of CIT for analysing behaviour in situations, but CIT can be used as an assessment tool. See, for example, this report.

extended matching items


learning logs


letter to a friend - A form of assessment in which a student is asked to compose a letter to a friend (real or imaginary), who is thinking of enrolling in the unit, and describing his or her own experiences (Trigwell & Prosser, 1990; cited in Biggs, 2003). This form of writing indicates how well the student is able to integrate different aspects of a topic, as well as to reflect on them. Instructors may also learn something valuable about their classes from the feedback provided.

matching items - each item in one set is matched with an item in a second set (e.g. “Match the brain regions on the left with the cognitive functions shown on the right”).

multiple-choice questions (MCQs)

open-book examination - An examination in which students may bring certain materials to the exam (e.g. notes, books). Often combined with the seen exam format.

ordered-outcome items - In an assessment, these are a series of questions on the same topic, each of which the student is expected to answer. The questions are ordered in a hierarchy of complexity, from the simplest to the most complex. Biggs (2003, p.183) gives the following example of an ordered-outcome item for physiotherapy students:

  1. When is the asthma attack most severe during the day?
  2. Is an asthmatic patient physically fitter at 1pm or 8pm?
  3. Do you expect an asthmatic patient to sleep well at night? Give your reasons.
  4. Advise an asthmatic patient how to cope with diurnal variation in symptoms.

peer tutoring

powerpoint presentation - Can be used as a teaching method or an assessment method. For guidance on compelling powerpoint presentations, see the book by Kosslyn (2007).

portfolio - A collection of documents intended to demonstrate a student's abilities; this can include the e-portfolio or digital portfolio. Students may be asked to include a selection of their best work from a range of items.

poster presentation

problem-based learning (PBL)

wikis - the construction of wiki sites is another alternative to traditional writing, and is well-suited to collaborative work.

reflective writing

seen examination - Some information about the exam (other than general structure) is released to students prior to the exam. They may be told the general topics that will appear or the specific questions. This format may sometimes be combined with the open book format.

three-minute essay. This is recommended by Biggs (2003) for large classes, in particular. In advance of a class, students are asked to read around and think about what they hope to learn from the class. At the end of the class itself, students are given three minutes to describe the main point that they learned from the class. They might also address any major issue that was left unanswered. This method can be used for formative or summative assessment.

unseen examination - This method of assessment is widely used for its administrative convenience and because it makes cheating difficult. However, it is sometimes criticized for encouraging memorisation rather than real thinking ("backwash"; see Biggs, 2003) and for disadvantaging those who are especially anxious in pressurised situations.

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