Day 3: How our Beliefs about teaching shape our approach to interactivity

Deep and Interactive Learning in Lectures

Written by Glen O’Grady and Frederick Chew, The Australian National University

In today’s session we focus on how our beliefs about teaching shape our approaches to interaction.

Brown & Manogue (2001), describe different modes of Lectures (they also share their own opinions about each mode). After having a look at the table below, think about what mode of lecture you feel more inclined towards.

The Classical— in which a lecture is divided into broad areas and then subdivided. This is the easiest method of structuring a lecture and, potentially, the most boring. An extension of this method is the iterative classical in which a set procedure is applied to each topic. For example signs, symptoms, diagnoses, management and prognosis may be applied to a set of related diseases.
The Problem Centred— in which a problem is outlined and various solutions are offered. Handled well, this method can play on the curiosity or clinical interests of the students.
The Sequential— in which a problem or question is presented and followed by a chain of reasoning which leads to a solution or conclusion. It is easy to lose the students’ attention when using this method so the use of periodic summaries is recommended.
The Comparative—in which two or more perspectives, methods or models are compared. It is better done visually rather than orally. A common weakness is to assume that the audience knows intimately the perspective or methods under review. If in doubt, first outline each of the perspectives.
The Thesis— in which an assertion is made and then proved or disproved through a mixture of argument and perhaps speculation. Potentially an interesting approach for students but, like the sequential approach, it can sometimes be difficult to follow.

We believe it is worth considering what might drive the way we structure a lecture activity. There is compelling evidence that beliefs about teaching impact on teaching practices (Entwistle, 2007; Trigwell et al. 1999).

However, before exploring the connection between beliefs about teaching and lecture activities we should acknowledge that the fit between beliefs and intentions and action is never a “perfect fit” (Hativa, et al. 2001).

Learning Activity

To identify your own beliefs about teaching and learning, we invite you to complete the Teaching Perspective Inventory (TPI). It is a free, short online questionnaire that will generate a report of your teaching in terms of your beliefs, intentions and actions in relation to five different perspectives on teaching (Pratt, 1998).

For a debrief on what your TPI report means you can watch:

Your report will show that you will have one (or perhaps two) perspective/s that will be dominant – meaning that at least in the context for which you answered the questions, you are likely to adopt a certain approach to ensure effective teaching and learning. These 5 perspectives are:

  • Transmission: effective teaching and learning is a commitment to a transference of subject matter
  • Apprenticeship: effective teaching and learning is engaging in processes focused on the socialisation and induction of students into norms and professional behaviour
  • Developmental: effective teaching and learning is facilitating the learners point of view
  • Nurturing: effective teaching and learning is based on students’ effort and achievement but recognizing that these stem from the “heart as well as head”
  • Social Reform: effective teaching and learning is best measured in terms of a willingness of students who seek to change society in substantive ways.

Given these perspectives, it is interesting to speculate what type of interaction one might feel more or less comfortable with when conducting a lecture?

If your dominant perspective is… are your lecture activities like…

  • Transmission… are you less inclined to want to interrupt the story telling and narrative of a lecture with student activities? If you do have activities are they inclined to want to test whether students have acquired the information shared in a lecture?
  • Apprenticeship… are you inclined to want students in any activities to practice a skill they have acquired through your modelling?
  • Developmental… are you inclined towards activities that show you what students know about a subject before you give any instruction and when they have been presented an idea how they are making sense of this idea and allowing them time to develop their understanding by working with others?
  • Nurturing: are you inclined to want to students to increase their confidence about their understanding of a concept by allowing them to discuss and test their ideas with others?
  • Social Reform: are you inclined to want to students to share how they personally feel about an idea and its application to real-life and its power in effecting change?

Final Word

A cup of coffee sits next to a computer.
Image by byteorder.

Over the 3 days in this espresso course, we have examined the idea of interactivity in a lecture (that involves relationships: amongst students, with the lecturer and with the lecture content). We have suggested the quality of learning from interaction is not a given, it is dependent upon the activation of various cognitive mechanisms.

On day 2 we looked at examples of activities used in lectures, whilst in today’s session we identified how our beliefs about teaching might shape what type of activities we choose to use in a lecture.

While we have unashamedly made a case for lectures that are more interactive, our hope is that we have given you some different lens to use when considering and planning your lectures. Moreover, we hope this coffee course has illuminated aspects of lecturing and interactivity that can make us that little bit more aware – and even mindful about teaching and learning in lectures.

Context in teaching will always matter – John Hattie’s extensive review of excellence in teaching found the best teachers were always “more context-dependent and have high situation cognition” (Hattie 2003).  How we teach in lectures of course needs to be driven by context  – our students, the course requirements, and to some extent the conditions that we teach in (class size and teaching spaces included).

But, we are not “neutral” in how we go about understanding contexts – our students, the course requirements, and the conditions that we teach in (inclusive of class size and teaching spaces). We have chosen to frame these context variables in certain ways – that may or may not be always explicit to us.

If you would like to experience an interactive lecture, and you are on ANU campus, you are very welcome to attend our next session of Deep and Interactive Learning in Lectures that will be advertised via CHELT. Or better still invite us to one of your lectures!!!

We would like to thank Karlene Dickens and Janene Harman and the rest of the ANU Online team for their tremendous support in helping us offer this course. They are awesome to work with!


Thank you for being involved in this course – we would love to hear from you! Have you say here.


  • Brown, G., & Manogue, M. (2001). AMEE Medical Education Guide No. 22: Refreshing lecturing: a guide for lecturers. Medical teacher23(3), 231-244.
  • Entwistle, N. J. (2007). Research into student learning and university. In N. Entwistle & P.Tomlinson (Eds), Student Learning and University Teaching (pp. 1-30). British Journal of Educational Psychology Monographs Series II: Psychological Aspects of Education, Leicester, England: The British Psychological Society.
  • Hativa, N., Barak, R., & Simhi, E. (2001). Exemplary university teachers: Knowledge and beliefs regarding effective teaching dimensions and strategies. Journal of Higher Education, 72, 699–729.
  • Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers Make a Difference, What is the research evidence?
  • Pratt, D. (1998). Five Perspectives on Teaching in Adult & Higher Education. Krieger Publishing, Florida.
  • Trigwell, K., Prosser, M., & Waterhouse, F. (1999). Relations between teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning. Higher education, 37(1), 57-70.


24 thoughts on “Day 3: How our Beliefs about teaching shape our approach to interactivity

  1. Being a lecturer in an engineering discipline, my lectures tend to be more of the problem-centred style, although sometimes I resort to the sequential style. I guess the other styles are quite less suitable for my lectures. It’s interesting though to see this classification of lectures!

    I have done the TPI, and my most dominant two perspectives were the transmission and apprenticeship. The lowest was social reform. I believe these results are understandable mainly for two reasons: 1- the heavy content I need to finish during the semester probably leads me to use transmission, combined with some interactivity using challenging questions, debates, and whole-class discussions. 2- Again, being a lecturer in an academic engineering discpline, social reform is not the focus or even the objective of my lectures. I feel that this style may be more appropriate or favourable in public awareness courses or workshop, where the public views on some matters need to be reformed. This includes, for example, campaigns against smoking, or encouraging mothers to breastfeed. Academic lectures are just academic! Unless the lecturer is very zeal towards some social issue and wants to influence their students in that direction, I don’t really see why would the social reform be the dominant lecturing style.

  2. Cracker of a post today, Glen and Fred. I really liked the use of the TPI to link beliefs and lecture approaches. Helps to unpack the idea of a “lecture” as a standardised, homogeneous method. Also as useful for an online “recorded” context as for face-to-face. Thanks!

  3. Two “quick” comments Zohair. There is support for the idea that there are disciplinary differences when considering the adaption of the different perspectives (see Rotidi, G., Collins, J. B., Karalis, T., & Lavidas, K. (2017). Using the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) to examine the relationship between teaching perspectives and disciplines in higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 41(5), 611-624.) However the same research found that one’s teaching perspectives, together with their values, personal ways of conceiving and interpreting their disciplines and of approaching their students and teaching subjects, along with their personal theories for teaching and learning and their social and cultural backgrounds moderates the effect of discipline. For example here is a link (http://blogs.ubc.ca/srikanth/2012/04/25/march-2012-teaching-perspectives-inventory/) to another engineer who has a profile that sounds both similar but also different to your profile.

    As for social reform can I point you to colleagues in the ANU College of Science Anna Wilson and Susan Howitt. They have been looking at how to develop amongst science undergrads a sense of “critical being” (see: Wilson, A. N., & Howitt, S. M. (2016). Developing critical being in an undergraduate science course. Studies in Higher Education, 1-12.) Their approach to teaching I believe aligns well with Dan Pratt’s analysis of social reform” in as much… “A curriculum for criticality would involve a re-envisioning and rebalancing of traditional academic roles and relationships, so that the authoritative hierarchy of teacher and student is abandoned and a ‘genuine openness’ is created such that students can feel that their own voice and their own existential claims matter.”

  4. The TPI outcome coincides with my teaching philosophy perfectly. My dominant perspective is Apprenticeship. I had about 10 years working experience in the world before completing my PhD and deciding to turn to the academic career. My view on teaching/learning is largely a reflection of my own experience as a student and an employee working in different roles. The self-awareness in terms of teaching perspective is a great start to gathering my ideas and organizing them into a more structured framework.
    The three sessions in a row are mind blowing. They opened my eyes to a much bigger and more interesting world of teaching. Thank you very much, everyone in the team.

  5. My results on the TPI (appended) show that Apprenticeship is dominant, closely followed by Transmission. I did this test some years ago as part of an MEd and the results haven’t changed. I am teaching computer professionals and engineers, in programs which are explicitly apprenticeship based: students work on real projects for real-world clients.

    However, I don’t understand what the connection being made between the style of a lecture and the lecturer’s beliefs about teaching. Perhaps “Problem Centered” would be most appropriate for the apprenticeship approach, but students need to be first introduced to the basics using a different approach.

    Also it seems a little odd to discuss the design “a lecture” as if it was a standalone unit of learning. I would expect a series of lectures to be part of a module of a course, along with other activities. The module should be designed top down, starting with learning objectives, then the assessment, then learning activities to support the assessment. The least importunate of the learning activities would be lectures (assuming there are to be any).

    TPI Results:

    Apprenticeship Total: (Ap):40 (B = 14; I = 13; A = 13)
    Transmission Total: (Tr):35 (B = 13; I = 7; A = 15)
    Developmental Total: (Dv):28 (B = 10; I = 9; A = 9)
    Nurturing Total: (Nu):23 (B = 9; I = 8; A = 6)
    Social Reform Total: (SR):18 (B = 6; I = 5; A = 7)

    Beliefs total: (B)52
    Action total: (A)50
    Intentions total: (I)42

    Mean: (M)28.8
    Standard Deviation: (SD)7.93
    Dominant Threshold: (HIT)36.73
    Recessive Threshold: (LOT)20.87
    Overall Total: (T)144

    1. Tom said “… it seems a little odd to discuss the design “a lecture” as if it was a standalone unit of learning. I would expect a series of lectures to be part of a module of a course, along with other activities. The module should be designed top down, starting with learning objectives, then the assessment, then learning activities to support the assessment. The least importunate of the learning activities would be lectures (assuming there are to be any).”

      This is an excellent point Tom I think we should be careful about considering any teaching event in isolation of the other connected events, but I am not sure I would buy into the Matheson (2008) thesis we shared on Day one that the lecture should not be interactive simply because other parts of the course are!

      The point that I want to make is that all teaching events are in part a manifestations of what we believe about teaching and learning. Designing a lecture, a tutorial, a seminar, or a coffee course is going to be in part shaped by what we believe. The TPI is a tool to help us be more aware of our beliefs and the exercise (dominant perspective is… lecture activities are like…) is a thought experiment to how these beliefs might influence the type of interactive activities we might feel more (or less) comfortable doing in a lecture, acknowledging of course that overall in a module there will be other opportunities to do similar/other activities.

  6. Zohair, being someone who also teaches engineers I see we have a similar approach.

    I find the idea of social reform in courses troubling from an ethical and practical point of view. I don’t see it is my role to impose my views on the students, although in teaching subjects such as professional ethics and environmental sustainability, I am doing that to some extent.
    From a practical point of view, reformist views in a course may place students at risk. About one third of my students are from other countries, some of which have very different world views from Australia. I have to assume that the student’s activities, including discussions in class and electronic communications, are being monitored by their government, while they are studying in Australia. So just having the student take part in a controversial discussion in class, or on-line, could place them at risk.

  7. I dug out my TPI results from abut 18 months ago (don’t quite have time today to redo the questionnaire). As an aside, the statistician in me wonders how much test-to-test variability there would be, both over a short time period and a longer one such as the year and a half I now have.
    My scores were not unike the engineers and computer scientists in the discussion above – Apprenticeship and Transmission on top, Social Reform last. When I think about the lectures I have given, they would mostly land in the Problem-Centred / Sequential zone, which to me matches up with the idea that’s there’s problems to solve and one (or more) techniques to master to solve them.
    Zohair’s examples of social reform were both interesting because they were both population health related rather than engineering related and both have bodies of quantitative evidence to support the proposals. I wonder if there wouldn’t also be issues in engineering that would make students think about the way society currently views these issues and whether these views are based in evidence.

  8. Many thanks for the course, it was very interesting even for me – someone who is not a teacher nor lecturer. I am an education officer trying to understand what methods could be used in class to make learning more effective for students and overall classes more appealing for students. It is great to know that the tendency is for changing the paradigm of traditional and classical lectures in which students had a very passive role to something that is much more interactive in essence, thus improving learning outcomes.

  9. I had apprentice and development as the dominant perspectives in my TPI. I think this clearly reflect how subjects from different contexts are delivered to students. However, I always want my students to be confident what they have learnt and think always outside the box. I always tell them to think thoroughly and develop their own understanding on the subject content. To assist them to build their own understanding on subject contents I always give them challenging questions and try to make these questions similar as much as possible to real-world context. I think such strategy help them to understand what they should expect in the real-world. To conclude, I would like to thank all those who involved in developing this valuable course. I have learn a lot from this course and looking forward to attend to the next session of Deep and Interactive Learning in Lectures. Thank you all.

  10. It is helpful to be reminded of the different elements of learning, and that interaction per does not necessarily result in learning. The teaching perspective inventory is a great tool – I found it helpful to recognise that each perspective has its strengths and limitations – and that different perspectives are more or less ‘useful’ in different contexts. And that I might (sensibly) change perspective depending on the context. It is very affirming to realise we don’t all have to be the charismatic story-telling lecturer to ‘lecture’ well. I will continue to ponder what exactly my beliefs about teaching and learning are and how they influence my teaching and curriculum design.

    Thanks very much for the course. It has reminded me of how much I still have to learn in this space!

  11. Fred and I would like to thank all those who have participated in the discussions. Your comments have helped us to reflect upon the ideas we have used as a stimulus for this course. Your experiences, comments and questions made running this course really enjoyable but even more so it makes us really hopeful about academics transforming lectures for the benefit of deep learning.

  12. I did not immediately recognise myself in any of Brown & Manogue’s five modes of lectures, but what I normally do is probably closest to the “classical” or “sequential” modes. I notice there are warnings attached to all of the modes (except the “problem centred”?), so will try to keep that in mind in the future.

    The Teaching Perspective Inventory test was interesting and instructive. It did come out with a “developmental” perspective as the dominant, and your description of the types of lecture activities for this one are spot on what I normally do. But there were also some inconsistencies between scores on belief, intention, and activity in some of the other perspectives, so that is something I should think about – do the activities I choose in class and what I emphasise when planning a course align with my believes about teaching?

    Thank you for this interesting course!

  13. Wow the TPI is really intriguing. I got similar scores in Development, Nurturing and Apprenticeship. It makes sense based on my past experience. I got the lowest score in Social Reform. No, I don’t have the ambition to reform the society :P~ Looks like “who we are” makes “what kinds of educators we become”.

    Many thanks for this course. It’s also very useful to read all these insightful comments here.

  14. Sorry I am so late posting this! I found this session really interesting. I took the TPI and found ‘nurture’ was very clearly my dominant. Social Reform came in second (not too far behind), then developmental fell just below the mean. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Transmission fell well below my recessive line.
    Sometimes I miss teaching because I miss being able to discuss issues with my students and help them to find their passions, but I don’t miss getting bogged down in all the heavy curriculum and having to memorise facts – so these results make complete sense to me.
    Thanks so much for this course!

  15. My TPI results suggest that my dominant characteristics are Development and Nurturing, while Social Reform and Transmission are recessive. This is fairly accurate for me. I believe it is more important to understand the how and why of something, rather than the what. The what can/will change. But, if you know how to find it, how to interpret it, why it is the way it is, etc, you will always be equipped to deal with the changing context.

    This philosophy also shows in my preferred modes of lecturing. I am inclined towards problem centred designs, interspersed with iterative classical lectures. While I had never consciously thought about it before, I believe these modes better facilitate Development and Nurturing.

  16. Just like some (most?) of my students, when I am asked to complete an exercise with concrete steps and a pre-determined outcome, I immediately turn to novel ways to circumvent this and still comply with the assessment, demonstrating flair and individualism and angling for fast ways to hit the HD terrain. So you ay have already spotted that I am the (grandiosely titled) Social Reform. As a HASSer, the more I learn, the more I am convinced that the concepts and frameworks that we engage in are compelling until they aren’t and we start all over with new labels. Bearing this in mind, I do believe that what we can teach to our students is (at very best) some solid investigative skills in tackling any problem in a systematic way where we consider what facts are (and aren’t). Beyond this, more profoundly, and most importantly, we can push students to think beyond area studies or issue studies and interrogate the values that underpin all academic endeavours. So academic studies are as much a pursuit of knowledge as they are a journey of self-discovery, where students learn to think deeply about the assumptions we make about the world, and to ask and be interested in those that underpin others around us. So I might be a bit bold here, and say, these (rather wishy-washy) labels are useful for us as lecturers to follow the same journey that our students are hopefully following, and to bring self-reflection in to our daily lives.

  17. I really enjoyed this course – thanks so much Glenn. I did the TPI and come out equally strongly for nuture and social reforming not entirely surprisingly given I teach about current complex environmental problems. I believe that intrinsic motivation is the most powerful driver of learning, and that can be fostered by arousing curiosity, showing the direct applicability of something to a student and teaching them not just about something, but how they can do, be or make that themselves. My teaching philosophy is strongly based on making students feel that there is no distinction between life and the classroom and I seek to create emotional engagement by making personal links between students and issues. What we study doesn’t just have relevance to real world issues, it has relevance to their lives, their decisions and their priorities today. Regardless of whether they intend to go into environmental careers specifically I encourage them to see that just by being at one of the top universities in the world they are at the apex of change. And their privilege means they have a responsibility to care that the environment is changing because they will not be affected by this change as much as the billions of poor people around the world. The pedagogical benefit of this approach is that it engages students deeply with the literature and the case studies – if they can change this situation, what should they do? What are the implications of those actions? What are the barriers to making “good” decisions? Tom suggested there are ethical implications for getting students to engage with issues such as these, I would argue there are ethical issues in not getting students to engage with them!

  18. I would say that I feel most inclined towards the problem-centered approach, as it allows for critical thinking to determine which solutions are the best in which scenarios. Regarding my TPI results, I was not too much different from the example given by Tom in the video. Social Reform was my most recessive feature (27), which makes sense as I was concentrating on my physics lab group, which does not tend to delve into this realm. Transmission (30) was also recessive, with apprenticeship (40) and developmental (40) my backup perspectives, leaving nurturing (42) as the dominant trait in my teaching. I feel that this fits my teaching style accurately as I strongly believe in relating the work to real-life scenarios and in the lab this is easier to accomplish. I am inclined to let students discuss and test their ideas amongst themselves as I believe this builds their confidence and understanding. However, I also acknowledge that this will not work for everyone and particularly the more introverted students may need alternate methods to suit their learning style. Since all of my traits rated pretty high (mean=35.8) I guess this means I have strong views and perceptions on teaching.

  19. Transmission was most dominant for me, closely followed by developmental. I think this reflects how I see myself as a lecturer. As described for transmission dominant, I do prefer not to interrupt the narrative of a lecture, or the section of it I’m delivering, for fear that the students might lose track of the structure and disconnect or get confused. My chart was relatively flat, perhaps because, as discussed in the video, I’m not an experienced teacher and am trying to please everyone!
    As for my lecture modes, I think that I identify most with the dull old classical mode, but sequential also describes some of my lectures. I think these modes are suited to traditional history teaching (ie narrative-based lessons), which is probably why I’ve fallen into them, but, with some creative thinking, it’s probably possible to re-configure some lectures as problem-centred or comparative, depending on the topic of the particular week.

    1. Hi Christina, thanks for sharing your reflection here, particularly around how it relates to your discipline and to your experiences in teaching thus far. I think those are really important factors to consider when looking at your role in relation to lecturing and other modes of teaching. Despite being a very strong advocate for active learning, I also really love delivering a well-organised and sequential lecture that tells a story from beginning to end! I like to hold these two beliefs together and not necessarily see them in opposition to each other – rather, I prefer to think about when is best to have one or the other based on the need and context for the class. I think it compares nicely to your comment from the previous day (https://anuonline.weblogs.anu.edu.au/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?p=32173&comment_status=approved) about your experiences in tutorials involving lots of interactive activities.

      1. For sure, different topics can be presented in one mode or another! I think I will probably flip between different modes.

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