Jill Downing

Applied learning in a teacher education course


The study will investigate the development of an alternative pedagogical teaching and learning approach within a new university teacher education course (delivered at UTAS). The course, aimed at vocational education and training (VET) teachers, attracts many students who would be considered ‘non-traditional’. These non-traditional students may have struggled in their preparatory schooling and will therefore be more likely to be considered at risk of failure in a university context. In order to engage, retain and achieve positive educational outcomes, these students require an appropriate teaching and learning environment that responds to their characteristics and contexts and provides ‘anytime, anywhere’ accessibility.

The study aims to develop and evaluate a set of principles that will undergird the design and the development of the course, using the iterative process of design research. It will investigate the ways in which the set of principles support the development of an applied, authentic learning environment in a higher education course, and the experiences of the students and the teaching staff within it. The results of this study will inform other teacher education courses and university courses more broadly, where a more applied and authentic learning environment is sought in order to offer an engaging environment for non-traditional students.

Mixed methods will be used to collect data from both students and teaching practitioners, in order to build a picture of the effectiveness of the principles being researched. Quantitative data (descriptive statistics) will be collected from participants via an electronically administrated survey. Qualitative data will be collected via focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and electronic student artefacts produced as part of their studies
It is expected that the results of this project will inform the future design of teacher education courses within the University of Tasmania, and beyond this context through the dissemination of the results.


Downing, J. & Herrington, J. (2013).  Design principles for applied learning in higher education: A pedagogical approach for non-traditional students in an online course. In J. Herrington, A. Couros & V. Irvine (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia 2013 - World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 874-881). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.