Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Third Edition

Author(s) John Biggs, Catherine Tang
Publisher Open University Press
Published 2007
Pages 360
Price £28.99
ISBN 9780335221264
Reviewed by Dr Pamela Parker
City University London
Review published 20 February 2008

This book is now in its third edition and Catherine Tang previously noted as an inspiration has now become a co-author. The book continues to focus on constructive alignment and outcomes based education but in addition there is an increased focus on implementation at institutional level as well as the classroom. The book also includes tasks to facilitate the reader in reflecting upon their practice.

Chapter 1 sets the scene and focuses on the changing face of universities and issues such as fees and their link to the quality of learning and teaching. It also clarifies the different terminology now used for outcomes based education. This is a useful background prior to encouraging reflection upon current practice individually, departmentally and institutionally.

Chapter 2 focuses on how teaching and student learning activities should have some synergy and, approaches to moving students to higher level activities. Chapter 3 then examines motivation, the learning and teaching climate and reflective teaching. There are some thought provoking questions and suggestions to develop teaching.

Chapter 4 outlines the background to constructive alignment and explains what this means for students and teachers. The points outlined here would provide valuable advice for those revising or developing modules or programmes.

Chapter 5 focuses on designing Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) and knowledge and level related to this. The tasks are particularly useful for someone new to this challenge or wishing to review their practice. Chapter 6 then looks at the contexts for effective learning and teaching activities and raises issues of value, performance and development.

Chapters 7 and 8 focus on discussing a range of learning and teaching activities and how to use these so that the intended learning outcomes can be achieved. There are numerous examples on how to do this and good opportunities using the tasks to reflect upon personal practice.

Chapter 9 looks at the principles of aligning assessment. At the beginning of the chapter there are six case studies that would be familiar to most and are a good start to consider current practice prior to reading the chapter. The chapter then deals with many issues such as measurement, standards, norm and criterion referencing, authentic assessment and reliability and validity. Some of the points made do challenge some existing practices.

Chapters 10 and 11 focus on designing assessments. There are examples of assessing declarative and functioning knowledge and whilst many of the tools discussed are familiar the suggestions for their use require the reader to review their current practice and look at innovative ways of using these in the future. Suggestions such as Venn diagrams, concept maps and letters to friends are particularly useful. There is also discussion of quantitative versus qualitative marking.

Chapters 12 and 13 then focus on providing practical advice for implementing constructive alignment both at individual and institutional level. There is discussion of quality enhancement with a focus on issues such as student evaluations, peer review and external examiners. There are several examples from disciplines where this has been introduced to encourage the reader again to reflect on their practice and consider how you might be able to make changes where needed.

I would recommend this book to both new and existing lecturers who would like to learn more about constructive alignment but also those who would like some innovative ideas for their teaching, learning and assessment activities. The book is easy to read and the tasks promote reflection upon current practice. The further reading examples at the end of each chapter provide useful resources to continue exploring this area and some helpful annotations are added in some cases.