Tailoring in the Practice of Teaching and Learning

O’Riordan, Adrian (2008) Tailoring in the Practice of Teaching and Learning. [Conference Proceedings]


This poster describes the use of tailoring in teaching and learning. By tailoring I mean built-in flexibility to change course content and delivery mechanisms on-the-fly using feedback from students while the course is progressing. I investigated a couple of methods to conceptualize this. One approach was to provide the students with course and teaching evaluations midway through the course and earlier. Another approach was to adjust individual lectures, labs, and lesson-plans based on informal feedback. I give examples of what occurred in laboratory sessions.I have chosen the word tailoring because I don’t envisage large visible changes in the course but rather a number of small changes that can nonetheless have a major impact on the overall experience. The term tailoring is not widely used in educational research but tailoring as a methodology is present in the professions. Gardner (1998) identified what he calls “tailored feedback” in “our most rewarded professions”, medicine and law. In particular I draw on the experience of tailoring in the engineering profession. Engineering is well suited to such a method because knowledge is often tacit and each situation in practice has several possible alternative actions. From a teaching perspective tailoring entails monitoring or “seeing” a class, planning for flexibility, and reflecting on difficulties. The goals of tailoring from a student’s point of view include: student taking responsibility, organizing own work, and allowance to pursue preferred approaches. Tailoring can be viewed as being connected to but distinct from personalized and individualized education. I make links between tailoring and other educational and psychological ideas such as Schön’s reflection-in-action, in-situ learning,

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