The question: Discuss a few big effects in education, and the sense in which they are "big". And discuss whether the main value of what is learned in HE is content, a way of thinking, or something else.

Big effects in education:

Knowledge and Learning Activities: Iain

Another big effect in education is the Knowledge that a teacher possess’ of the subject of interest, and the subsequent expression of this knowledge. For example, Beiderman and Shiffer looked into how people were trained to sex day old chicks, in a process that took 6-12 weeks compared to a leaflet to be read for a minute. They found that the leaflet worked better than the training, so therefore tells us that this is a big effect in learning as the teachers role is therefore to not only have the required knowledge to teach, but they also have to equip learners with the tools to learn. Hake also found he could increase the learning of his pupils by changing teaching methods (traditional to interactive engagement) by almost 2 S.D’s which again shows that the knowledge of the teacher does not equal a good teacher, and that the method of learning activity can have a big effect also.

Mastery Learning is an example of learning activities that can have a big effect on learning. The teacher breaks the information to be learned into small chunks for the learner and they can only move on when they understand it. Great improvements can be seen when switching from traditional teaching methods to Mastery Learning, again showing how the method of teaching can play a big role in learning.

Overall the delivery, knowledge and learning activities of a teacher can all be independently import to learning, as each part adds greater learning to the next. A truly great teacher will therefore be good at all three areas of teaching.

Self Assessment:Jen

Hunt used self assessment of students’ degree of sureness to their answer in a paired associating task. Students had to state their degree of sureness in their answer either immediately before or immediately after the correct answer was given. Acquisition increased by 25% when self assessment was used, and this was faster when students stated their degree of sureness before the answer was given. This may be due to making people attend to the content improves what they know – it improves their confidence in their own ability. He also states that behaviour is modified by practice – repetition may be the key to improvement.

Peer Instruction: Jen
Crouch and Mazur implemented peer instruction physics courses. This involved pre-class reading and in-class discussion. Students’ scores on the FCI (Force Concept Inventory) and MBT (Mechanics Baseline Test) improved, as well as performance on students understanding of the course and on traditional testing methods. This was unaffected by what the course was or who taught it. It may be due to students engaging in the content or understanding the different views from other students.

Effect of the Teacher: Kat

The teacher is considered by some researchers to be very important – more so than other factors such as teaching methods. Dylan Williams states that any differences in learning outcomes are most likely to be attributable to which teacher the learner gets. Evidence suggests that a teacher is born and not made, which means that this unknown quality cannot be attained, but must instead be intrinsically possessed.

However, studies show that self directed learning is just as effective as learning which is mediated by a teacher. Professor Allen Tough found that the presence of a teacher made no difference at all to learning outcomes. This is also evident through such examples as peer and self assessment, which can be very effective, despite neither peers nor self acting as a teacher.

In consideration of adolescence, evidence shows that up until the age of 24 the pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed (e.g. Geidd et al, 2007). This has implications for the role of the teacher in terms of having a teacher as opposed to self-mediated leaning, since if the learner does not have a focus and aims, deep learning will not occur. In this case, learning which is mediated by a teacher will be more beneficial. Since much academic learning occurs with young people, perhaps in this sense a teacher will be considered to be more effective than no teacher.

Additional support for learning: Kat

in relation to beig effects in education, this legislation had a major effect on Scottish education, through helping to remove stigma and break down the prejudice which is carried with the term ‘special needs’. According to the Act, the term ‘additional support needs’ refers to any child or young person who – on a short term or long term basis – requires a bit of extra support in order to benefit most from their education. This could be for various reasons and not simply because the young person is categorised into that horribly stereotyped concept which is Special Needs.

Thus, the big effect of this act was that it was a significant step in the breaking down of prejudice against children who have additional support needs. Draaisma (2009), for example, showed that such prejudice still exists, for example against children who have ADHD.

Delivery: Iain

The delivery of a teacher can be described as a big effect in teaching, as a well spoken and interesting lecture will be easier to understand than when delivered monotonous and unclear. The DR Fox experiments, however, show that the motivation and will of a student to learn can overpower this effect, which shows that the delivery of a teacher may not be as important as first thought.

What big effects mean: Jon

There are many valid ways of deciding whether an effect is ‘big’; a statistical analysis of what is significant (based on probability) is only one way while another may be to observe what has persisted through culture and civilisation. For example, the role of the teacher is seen throughout cultures, history and has remained relatively unchanged. Jewish Rabbis were organised teachers who took and were followed by disciples for years at a time; the goal was by seeing the rabbi simply living and teaching the disciples would adopt useful habits and skills. The big effect of the teacher is only an example, the effects which have been influential and obvious enough to be continued throughout changes in educational structure and focus could be described as big effects. In a way, these big effects represent what is always true for education. (the conceptual one)

Goal of Learning: Gemma

While some have argued that the focus of Higher Education is on content, with research showing that students perform better after instruction, when they attend to content and when they understand the content. It has also been argued that the main focus is on teaching a new way of thinking.
However, it seems that HE's main focus is a combination of both content and a way of thinking. While learning of content is important, the way that students look at this information and come up with their own views is also important.
The process of education will, in all subjects, involve learning content and knowledge, but this knowledge is likely to open the learner's mind and add to their mindsets and ways of thinking. The ability to think outside the box is a valuable part of the experience of learning in Higher Education, though it could be said this is more an ideal goal of education.
Overall, it seems that while HE does teach content to some extent, it also introduces and encourages new and different ways of thinking to explore this content.

Jen: Good points - varied content, lots of information about different aspects of learning. Gets most of the points across for the answer to the question.

Bad points: Probably a bit long for an exam answer. Should have been proof read a bit more.

Gemma - As Jen said, it probably is a touch too long for an exam answer, and it probably could have been proof read a bit more, if only to improve structure a bit more and have it flow better.

I do like the inclusion of examples to illustrate the points, and I think it covers the aspects raised in the question.

For my own section, I would have liked to include more on each side (content vs way of thinking) individually, but length was obviously a constraint. I would also have liked to perhaps weave it through the answer linked to the other topics, rather than have it as a single section at the end.

Linda: I agree it seems a bit long but at the same time, there's lots of good information within it, including examples of studies that have been carried out. I'm assuming this is not the final essay as it starts off saying "Another big effect", so I think it needs bringing together and with a clearer structure.

Fran -

Best: Plently of good points and valid information. Lots of great examples which are explained well.

Possible areas for improvement: I think the structure needs work as it doesn't flow very well and doesn't seem to read easily as a single essay (though I suppose this is what should be expected when we write different sections each).

Lisa Murray

Best thing: Everything was relevant to the question set, with the question being continually answered throughout the plan. Good use of examples, and seemed to relate to real life in places, so it was understandable.

Worst thing: As above, structure, flow, length etc. But despite these things, the group still answered the question well.

Iain -

Good points - I think most key issues were covered in enough length, and feel we managed to keep the essay relating back to the question.

Bad Points - As already pointed out the essay dosnt really flow, but this would obviouly change when being written by one person instead of a group. Again probably too long, and needs a proper introduction.

Lisa McMunn

Good - lots of information and particularly liked the relation of the information to current Scottish law as this is highly relevant. Explainations of experiments are really clear and help emphasise the points.

For improvement - sorry to be repetitive but just the length and a bit of proof reading!


Good Points: Covered a lot of information, that related well to the question! Really well researched, and good use of examples.

Improvements: Although the sections that are covered by each individual are really well adapted to the question, they do not merge into one, whole answer. Some headings could have been integrated, such as 'Effect of teacher' and 'Delivery'.

Good - lots of different theories mentioned, good use of examples in most cases
Bad - some theories could have some more information about them to make them clearer, as others have said maybe a bit long and could flow better

Katherine - I think my section was a tad too long (I always have too much to say...) and also it may have been a bit random. However, I hopefully covered some good points. I think the essay overall was great (and not just because it was my group haha!!). Truthfully though, in my opinion, the essay was really informative and empirically supported, and managed to stay relevant to the question throughout. I felt that this made it a strong essay. I thought the structure wasn't the best - it reads like a draft and needs to be better tied up with intro and conclusion. But overall, great wink.


(good points) very relevant, uses of education law in Scotland, and lots of examples throughout it.

(improvement points) maybe too long, and it could have tied in together better, maybe we could have done a conclusion


Best thing: Plenty of information that covered a wide range of ideas relating to the question. Some interesting ideas in there, that at times could add originality to an essay answer.

Worst thing: Generally already said, lack of intro, flow, and conclusion. I also felt some ideas may be straying from the question, although I am not definite as it showed some creativity. The question also mentioned "content, a way of thinking, or something else", but the something else seemed to be missed.

Other comments: Although as said by others, some sections were not always clear, it would still be easy enough to extract info and use as an overview. Most of the weaknesses would go once it was being written alone.


I thought this was really interesting and there was a lot of information relevant to the question.. It was maybe a bit too long and it could be structured a little bit better.

Angela Thumath:

Best Thing: Covers a wide variety if information and theories will be great for revision. Also the examples used will be great for applying the knowledge and aiding understanding. Good examples of critical thinking

Improvements: I found the structure quite erratic and difficult to follow also didnt like that it was clear when sections were written by different people and who they were. The length also was rather long for what would be expected in an exam.

Best points: Wide variety of examples and evidence used to explore the question, provides a useful resource for revision in terms of presenting various avenues by which the question can be answered. Good justification of points, and explanation of findings.

Worst points: As has been mentioned, the structure is at times difficult to follow, and some points are difficult to relate back to the question. The answer also lacks a clear introduction. It also seems that much more time is devoted to answering the first question than the second.

Other: As has been mentioned, the strucutre is quite complicated- but this largely due to the fact that it is multi-authored. In terms of a resource, this answer comes across as a piece of writing from which concepts could be selected and developed and form the basis for several different answers to the quesiton.