INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology

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INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
Exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment,
to guide educators and policy makers

Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Carina Bossu,
Tim Coughlan, Rebecca Ferguson,
Elizabeth FitzGerald, Mark Gaved,
Christothea Herodotou, Bart Rienties,
Julia Sargent, Eileen Scanlon, Jinlan Tang,
Qi Wang, Denise Whitelock, Shuai Zhang

Open University Innovation Report 9
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University
Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, United Kingdom

Artificial Intelligence and Human Languages Lab/The Institute of Online Education, Beijing Foreign Studies University
No.19 Xisanhuan Beilu, Haidian District, Beijing, China

ISBN 978-1-4730-3170-8

Text and design © The Open University 2021

This report published 2021
First Innovating Pedagogy report published 2012

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Suggested citation:
Kukulska-Hulme, A., Bossu, C., Coughlan, T., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Rienties, B.,
Sargent, J., Scanlon, E., Tang, J., Wang, Q., Whitelock, D., Zhang, S. (2021). Innovating Pedagogy 2021: Open
University Innovation Report 9. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
Executive summary                                                          1


Best learning moments                                                     10
Positive mental states for enjoyable and effective learning

Enriched realities                                                        14
Extending learning with augmented and virtual reality

Gratitude as a pedagogy                                                   19
Reflecting on attitude to improve wellbeing and learning

Using chatbots in learning                                                23
Using educational dialogues to improve learning efficiency

Equity-oriented pedagogy                                                  27
Finding fairer ways to improve learning for all

Hip-hop based education                                                   31
Culturally relevant learning through hip-hop

Student co-created teaching and learning                                  36
Teachers and students creating materials and curricula

Telecollaboration for language learning                                   40
Using communication tools for collaborative language learning

Evidence-based teaching                                                   44
Using evidence from research to inform teaching

Corpus-based pedagogy                                                     48
Using authentic language data to support language teaching and learning
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
Executive summary
This series of reports explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an
interactive world to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation. This ninth
report proposes ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a widespread
influence on education. To produce the report, a group of academics at the Institute of
Educational Technology at The Open University, UK, collaborated with researchers from the
Artificial Intelligence and Human Languages Lab/Institute of Online Education at Beijing Foreign
Studies University. A long list of new educational concepts, terms, theories and practices
was proposed and then pared down to ten that have the potential to provoke major shifts in
educational practice. Finally, ten sketches of innovative pedagogies were compiled, based on a
review of published studies and other sources, and they are summarised below.

1    Best learning moments: The idea
     of best learning moments builds on
                                                       when a teacher senses that students
                                                       are engaged and ready to absorb
     the psychological concept of cognitive            some insights, such as a general
     absorption, or ‘flow’, defined as deep            point from a shared experience.
     involvement or immersion in an activity
     or task, often accompanied by feelings        2   Enriched realities: It is increasingly
                                                       common to enrich reality with the use of
     of enjoyment. People experience
     this mental state and these feelings              technology, and several types of reality
     when engaged in an activity that is               can be blended. When learners cannot
     appropriately challenging to their skill          be in the same place at the same time,
     level, resulting in full concentration            augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality
     and focus. Best learning moments can              (VR) can be used to make some exciting
     result in deep learning and high levels           and memorable shared experiences
     of satisfaction, and they may also be             possible. When an AR application is
     particularly memorable. They may                  used, it overlays information on our
     occur in situations involving hands-on            surroundings or objects around us,
     activity and participation, and they fit in       while VR provides a three-dimensional
     well with learner-centred approaches              environment with which learners can
     that take individual differences in               interact. Such enriched realities extend
     learning into account. Teaching tips for          what is possible in education and training
     creating memorable moments include                and provide dynamic, new experiences
     talking about students’ interests, asking         that engage learners immediately. They
     challenging questions and accepting that          also open up opportunities that are not
     all students are different. Technology-           available in the classroom, such as
     enhanced learning environments can be             exploring places that would be difficult,
     designed to create opportunities for best         dangerous or impossible to visit for a
     learning moments – for example, through           learner – the surface of Mars or the
     use of mobile devices, games-based                inside of a volcano, for example. With
     learning and immersive experiences,               AR and VR, students can interact and
     and through using data from learning              work together, manipulating virtual
     analytics. New ways of capturing best             objects and moving around the setting
     learning moments can support reflection           together. These ways of engaging
     on learning and improving the design              can support them in understanding
     of learning technology. Best learning             concepts, practising skills and performing
     moments can also be opportunities                 various tasks or procedures. Enriched
     for ‘teachable moments’, which are                realities are now used in many
     unplanned opportunities that arise                contexts including clinical and medical
                                                       settings, safety training and teacher

                                                                              Executive summary     1
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
training. Small-scale use of enriched            make sense of patterns in languages
         reality is within reach for learners             or behaviours. Chatbots bring new
         with access to a suitable smartphone             opportunities, such as immediate
         and a good internet connection.                  problem diagnosis and interventions.
                                                          They can provide learners with support
    3    Gratitude as a pedagogy: Gratitude
         involves the acknowledgement of
                                                          tailored to their needs – for example,
                                                          constructing an immersive learning
         what people have or receive and the              environment, analysing requirements
         conscious action of wanting to give              and initiating supportive conversation.
         back in some ways. When applied in an            Studies suggest that learners might
         academic context, gratitude can help             express themselves more freely with
         students to improve student–teacher              chatbots as they are not interacting with
         and student–student relationships; it            humans who might judge them. Chatbots
         can help them to be more aware of                have brought opportunities when tackling
         their learning environment and increase          the contradiction between large-scale
         understanding and focus on their studies.        and high-quality in learning. They enable
         It can also improve mental health and            greater personalisation by collecting data
         wellbeing of both students and teachers          from dialogues and learners’ behaviours
         – for example, students improve their            to provide support that is specifically
         ability to remain resilient while facing         tailored to each learner’s requirements,
         difficulties in learning. One practical          which might also help reduce educators’
         approach to implementing gratitude as            workloads. However, chatbots may
         a pedagogy involves asking teachers              not meet expectations if learners are
         and students to examine their attitude           not tolerant of their shortcomings,
         before starting their teaching or learning       such as a limited capacity to handle
         and during learning activities. A more           misunderstandings and breakdowns
         detailed reflection can bring awareness          in a conversation. Ethical issues
         of any negative attitudes towards certain        such as who owns and has access to
         topics or learning activities. These are         conversations between chatbots and
         then analysed and replaced by elements           humans also need to be addressed.
         of gratitude. Students have reported
         being more engaged and less distracted,
         having great motivation for learning,
                                                      5   Equity-oriented pedagogy: Developing
                                                          educational opportunities that are
         and having increased confidence and              inclusive requires thinking not only
         a deeper understanding of concepts.              about equality in opportunities to
         Gratitude as a pedagogy has been                 access education but also about equity,
         increasingly included in the professional        whereby each student can achieve
         development of school teachers,                  similar positive outcomes, regardless
         used in early childhood education                of their background and characteristics
         and explored in medical practice.                such as gender, disability or ethnicity.
                                                          Finding fairer ways to improve learning
    4    Using chatbots in learning: Using a
         text-based or voice-based conversational
                                                          for all requires consideration of barriers
                                                          at many levels, from personal to cultural
         interface to communicate with the                and societal. Strategies in equity-
         user, chatbots can answer and ask                oriented pedagogy include listening
         questions, guide learners and assist in          to students and adapting teaching,
         problem solving. This means that, when           recognising uneven impacts of use of
         a teacher is not available or cannot             educational technology, awareness
         help, learners are still able to make            of how assessment practices can be
         some progress. Increasingly, chatbots            unfair and drawing on pedagogical
         use artificial intelligence techniques to        frameworks such as Universal Design
         understand human languages, voices,              for Learning (UDL). UDL seeks to
         body language and behaviours, and to

2   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
accommodate individual learning                   emotional learning; increased literacy
    differences and provides principles of            development and critical thinking; and
    curriculum design that focus on offering          improvement in teacher and student
    students multiple means of engagement,            relationships. It is studied within
    representation (e.g. alternative                  disciplines such as English, sociology,
    formats) and expression or action. New            linguistics, dance, anthropology and
    technology and increased online and               music. It has practical applications
    hybrid learning provide opportunities             from early years learning through to
    for increasing personalisation and co-            higher education levels of study.
    creation of learning, although possible
    inequitable effects of technology             7   Student co-created teaching and
                                                      learning: The co-creation of teaching
    must be considered. Where the
    focus is on developing individualised             and learning materials by teachers
    support for learners, this should not             and students can lead to greater
    reduce the social benefits of learning            empowerment of students and better
    together or unintentionally create                relationships. Students can share
    new barriers. By putting a focus on               responsibility with teachers for designing
    fairness, rather than on whether                  materials and activities as well as
    access is possible, equity-oriented               assessments. They can co-create new
    pedagogies can offer a more holistic              content and experiences or amend
    approach when considering inclusion.              existing ones. The approach resembles
                                                      ‘communities of practice’, whereby a
6   Hip-hop based education: Hip-hop
    based education focuses on the use
                                                      group of people come together, linked by
                                                      a common interest, and meet regularly
    of hip-hop as a musical genre, culture            in order to find ways of improving their
    and art movement, both inside and                 practice. As students participate in the
    outside a traditional school setting. It          co-creation activities, they negotiate
    uses elements such as rap music texts,            with others and form and evolve their
    videos, graffiti and breakdancing in              identities. Examples of co-creation
    curricula and in teaching and learning to         range from small group activities, often
    provide a culturally appropriate approach         relating to specific courses, to larger-
    that can empower marginalised groups              scale involvements such as surveys,
    of learners. Educators, scholars and              interviews, consultations, testing of
    students involved in hip-hop education            materials, workshops and critical
    challenge traditional educational systems         reading of course content. Barriers to
    and structures and attach particular              uptake of this approach include the
    value to the power of youth voice, culture        need for students to have specific skills
    and agency. Hip-hop based education               or expertise, and a concern that their
    requires critical reflection to ensure that       involvement may change the direction
    both teachers and students maintain               of content creation from what was
    an authentic learning experience                  originally planned. There may also
    and a critical perspective. As well as            be frustration when the process does
    incorporating elements of hip-hop into            not work smoothly, and there is a risk
    teaching and learning, it is important that       that co-creation may not involve all
    teachers involve students in critically           students, thereby contributing to feelings
    examining negative aspects of hip-                of exclusion. When co-creation works
    hop that may reinforce or encourage               well, students often report positive
    sexism or violence. Hip-hop based                 feelings of enthusiasm and involvement
    education has been shown to bring                 and they can acquire new skills. Co-
    benefits that include greater student             created materials may also save them
    engagement, motivation and social and             having to buy expensive textbooks.

                                                                             Executive summary     3
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
8    Telecollaboration for language
         learning: Learning a second language
                                                           idea originates from medicine, where
                                                           practitioners often make use of evidence
         can bring many advantages, such as                from research and experimental studies
         an increased likelihood of attaining              which they combine with information
         further education, work and professional          about their patients to make decisions
         collaboration. The availability of                about managing their health. Evidence-
         free-to-use online communication                  based teaching examines evidence
         tools has created new opportunities               from research to determine whether
         for authentic contexts for language               there are proven benefits from a given
         learning and cultural learning, in the            pedagogical approach, or the conditions
         form of telecollaboration projects that           under which an approach will work. For
         connect learners in different locations.          example, robust evidence now exists
         Telecollaboration enables a student               that supports the provision of good-
         to tutor another in their first language,         quality feedback, the development of
         while also learning their collaboration           skills that can help students understand
         partner’s language as part of the same            how they learn, and giving homework
         exchange. Such projects may be                    to students. Several national and
         formally supported within an educational          university-based centres design and
         institution or informal. Telecollaboration        implement studies that examine in a
         has been found to improve learners’               systematic manner which pedagogical
         communication skills, expand their                techniques are beneficial, how different
         vocabulary and grammar knowledge, and             approaches to teaching are perceived
         help them to appreciate other cultures            by students and what their impact
         and to use their second language                  may be on what is learnt. Evidence-
         accurately and appropriately. Records             based teaching can support teachers in
         of telecollaboration may be useful for            identifying and applying best teaching
         follow-up tuition or task improvement.            practices, debunking harmful myths
         The quality of the learning opportunities         about teaching and improving current
         in telecollaboration is dependent on              teaching and learning. A good strategy
         learners’ commitment and motivation,              is for researchers to work closely with
         and learners and teachers may need to             teachers to reflect on their needs, design
         be trained in telecollaboration principles        studies and produce evidence together.
         and strategies. Some learners have
         reported cross-cultural tensions when        10 Corpus-based     pedagogy: A large
                                                         collection of texts or other samples
         working on language tasks. Overall,
         telecollaboration can contribute to               of naturally occurring language – for
         building a student-centred learning               example, a collection of newspaper
         environment characterised by peer                 articles across several decades or a
         teaching, autonomous learning and                 collection of informal conversations – is
         tailored learning based on learners’              known as a corpus. Language teachers,
         personal interests and needs.                     students and developers of teaching
                                                           materials may access a corpus to obtain
    9    Evidence-based teaching: Evidence-
         based teaching is about using research
                                                           authentic linguistic data and devise
                                                           corpus-based tasks for teaching and
         evidence to inform decisions about the            learning. Corpus-based pedagogy has
         best pedagogical approach to apply                received attention in recent years as a
         in a given domain. These decisions                result of advances in computing science
         may relate to which teaching strategy             that facilitate extraction of information
         to adopt to be able to teach a specific           from a corpus – for example, to find out
         topic, capturing the progress students            how certain words are used. Learners
         make over time, or assessing the                  can access online corpora with or without
         effectiveness of one’s teaching. The              the help of their teachers, and they can

4   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
analyse their own use of language by          in a particular genre, and scrutiny of
comparing their linguistic choices with       existing textbooks to discover their
the patterns and structures retrieved         features and to suggest improvements.
from a corpus. The retrieval and              It can also enable comparisons between
analysis of language use in context thus      word usage or concepts in different
provides learners with a research-based       languages to help develop cultural
understanding of language forms and           awareness. Researchers maintain
functions. The corpus-based approach          that there is a need for more corpora
can be applied in many areas including        that are accessible, diverse and
learning languages for specific purposes,     adaptable for language instruction.
teaching text analysis, support for writing

                                                                   Executive summary   5
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
    This is the ninth in a series of annual reports on innovations in teaching, learning and
    assessment. The Innovating Pedagogy reports are intended for teachers, policy makers,
    academics, researchers, educational technology developers and anyone interested in how
    education may change in the years ahead.

    This 2021 report is the result of collaboration     foregrounding positive attitudes that can help
    between researchers from the Institute              people to navigate an uncertain environment.
    of Educational Technology at The Open
    University (UK) and the Artificial Intelligence     Challenges in emergencies
    and Human Languages Lab/Institute of                Work on this report began in May 2020, at
    Online Education at Beijing Foreign Studies         a time of great upheaval and disturbance
    University. The report introduces ten               to normal ways of conducting education,
    innovative pedagogies that either already           brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
    influence educational practice or offer             The pedagogical innovations described in
    opportunities for the future. By ‘innovative        our report are not a direct response to the
    pedagogies’, we mean novel or changing              challenges that so many educators have faced
    theories and practices of teaching, learning        because of this extraordinary situation, but
    and assessment for the contemporary world,          they are certainly relevant to those challenges.
    often enabled or supported by technology.
                                                        The pedagogies we settled on seem to reflect
    As in previous years, the process of writing this   some important sensibilities and concerns that
    report has involved sharing ideas; discussing       were being highlighted in discussions among
    innovations; reading research papers, reports       educators and policy makers during 2020.
    and blogs; and commenting on each other’s           Restrictions on human contact had put the
    draft contributions. We worked together by          spotlight on personal wellbeing and its impacts
    first listing new educational concepts, terms,      on people’s ability to teach and study. Efforts
    theories and practices, then reducing these         were redoubled to understand teachers’ and
    to those that have the potential to bring about     students’ personal circumstances and needs.
    major shifts in educational practice. This          What was learnt highlighted issues of social
    report series has been published annually           justice and equity, such as uneven access
    since 2012, so the selection of the ‘top ten’       to teaching materials and suitable spaces,
    pedagogies for the report is also guided by the     support and technology. Just as knowledge-
    fact that we do not want to repeat pedagogies       generating communities within science,
    we have presented previously, even if they are      medicine, healthcare and other disciplines
    only now starting to be recognised more widely      were called upon to provide reliable evidence
    as emerging trends.                                 to inform important decisions relating to
    The pace of innovation and the ability to           managing the pandemic, similar requests
    adopt new practices differs around the              were made to various communities in the field
    world, and of course not every suggested            of education.
    pedagogy is suitable for every setting. Yet         Those with a great deal of experience in
    increasingly, innovative pedagogies display a       technology-enhanced and distance learning
    shared propensity to promote connection and         have been able to point to successful
    collaboration (including between students and       approaches, implementations and designs
    teachers), taking learning beyond classroom         supported by evidence from research and
    walls into a virtual space and enabling             practice. In response to a growing demand
    participants to reach out to others who may         for information on teaching at a distance,
    be on the other side of the world. Several          the Institute of Educational Technology
    pedagogies also display a trend towards             had already shared online a subset of our

6   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
INNOVATING PEDAGOGY 2021 - Institute of Educational Technology
innovative pedagogy descriptions from              on them later. Best learning moments may
previous years, in the form of help sheets         occur – though by no means exclusively –
for people who are trying out distance and         when learners are using some technology-
online education for the first time, or who        enhanced learning applications that have
have already taught at a distance and want         been designed for an excellent ‘learner
to try something new1. Many institutes,            experience’. These might be applications
organisations and governments around the           or environments that extend learning with
world have provided other resources for            augmented and virtual reality. Enriched
distance education and emergency remote            realities provide experiences that engage
teaching2, 3, 4.                                   learners immediately. Learning environments
                                                   using enriched realities offer remote
Wellbeing at the heart of                          participation and exploration, trips back in
education                                          time or into the future, virtual rehearsals and
Several of the pedagogies outlined in this         clinical simulations. Such experiences can
report promote awareness of the role of            build confidence and lower the risk involved
attitudes and emotions in teaching and             in a difficult procedure or activity, which might
learning. Educators want their students to         also reduce anxiety.
pay attention in class but, ideally, they want
more: students should have the right attitude,     Social justice and student
and they should be fully engaged and deeply        participation
absorbed in their learning experience, since       It is perhaps no coincidence that several
that will lead to higher levels of achievement     pedagogies in this report are concerned with
and satisfaction. Gratitude as a pedagogy          providing fair chances and enabling greater
suggests reflecting on attitude in order to        student participation. In open- and distance-
bring about improvements in wellbeing,             learning contexts, these have long been
relationships and learning. Practising gratitude   cherished aims and have led to innovations
has been shown to lead to an increase in           such as openly available online courses taken
students’ ability to focus in class and to         by very large numbers of people who would
remain resilient when facing difficulties, while   otherwise miss out on learning opportunities.
teachers have been better able to deal with        Equity-oriented pedagogy has a focus on
stress. The approach seems highly relevant         inclusivity, going beyond opening up access
in times of adversity and the positive feelings    to education and asking how every student
it generates may go some way towards               in a class (or cohort or programme, etc.) can
counteracting the emotional anxiety and            achieve similar positive outcomes, regardless
cognitive stress brought on by uncertainty and     of their background and characteristics such
insecurity at the present time.                    as gender, disability or ethnicity. A pedagogical
                                                   orientation towards equity requires teachers
Research suggests that people learn best           to really listen to students, challenging them
when they are in a mental state that makes         to address inequalities that may be created by
their learning easier or more enjoyable.           some examinations and assessments as well
Best learning moments use heightened               as by uneven access to, and ability to use,
attention and engagement signalling positive       technology.
mental states that can lead to enjoyable
and effective learning. Although the concept       One way to work towards fairness is through
of ‘cognitive absorption’ (a state of deep or      student co-created teaching and learning,
total involvement) has been explored in the        which can lead to greater empowerment of
past in relation to many human activities          students and better relationships among
including learning, the ‘best learning moments’    students and between students and teachers.
approach uses this concept as a way to             Co-creation can be direct, through joint
promote noticing such occurrences as               activities such as production of learning
opportunities to intensify and sustain learning,   materials and design of assessments, or
or to capture learning incidents and reflect       indirect, by way of opinions, suggestions and

                                                                                        Introduction   7
feedback offered through multiple means           areas of interest and need. Just as in other,
    including surveys, testing of new course          possibly unfamiliar collaborative activities such
    materials and critical reading of course          as the content co-creation mentioned earlier,
    content. Consideration should be given to         students are likely to need some targeted
    whether students have the necessary skills        development in terms of their collaboration or
    and competencies needed for full participation,   creation skills and some strategies needed
    and how these may be developed. It may be         for handling tensions between participants
    appropriate to work on developing a culture       or conflict resolution. Making such skills and
    of participation, so that it becomes a natural    strategies explicit to learners may also be
    and expected part of being a student. As part     a new challenge for some teachers and for
    of this process, there would be opportunities     those who are designing skills courses for
    to discuss benefits and drawbacks, how to         students. Such skills developed in the safe
    handle conflicts, and ways in which everyone      environment of a telecollaboration project
    can be included.                                  could also be valuable for wider application
                                                      in other contexts, such as interactions on
    Where students are already immersed in            social media platforms that may be used
    a distinctive culture outside class, elements     for language practice, peer support or other
    of their experiences and traditions can           purposes.
    be brought into class and incorporated
    into course materials and curricula. As an        Another growing area of opportunity is using
    example, hip-hop based education connects         chatbots in learning. These tools, based
    with hip-hop as a musical genre, culture and      on artificial intelligence (AI), could enable
    art movement, using elements such as rap          language practice via simple activities like
    music texts, performances, videos, art and        asking and answering questions, through
    dancing. Apart from improvements in teacher       to more advanced conversation designs,
    and student relationships, the benefits of a      such as enabling a learner to participate in
    hip-hop based education include greater           a story by responding to choices offered by
    student motivation, engagement, social and        the chatbot. Chatbots are currently mainly
    emotional learning, literacy development          designed for individual interactions, but in
    and critical thinking.                            future they could support more collaborative
                                                      dialogues. For example, the Wysa chatbot5,
    Expanding connections and                         which offers anytime chats with an artificial
    collaborations                                    agent to alleviate loneliness, stress or anxiety,
    The idea of building relationships and            also offers to bring a (real) therapist into
    expanding opportunities for interaction and       the conversation at the user’s request. By
    cultural learning comes into play in other        analogy, when a teacher is not available,
    pedagogies, notably telecollaboration for         learners can talk with a suitably designed
    language learning. By connecting learners         chatbot and are thus enabled to resolve
    through free-to-use online communication          some queries or make some progress with
    tools and environments, collaboration at          their learning, and could call on the teacher
    a distance gives learners opportunities to        or another helper when they are available
    practise using a foreign language and to          or when the need arises. Chatbots are
    expand their understanding of other cultures,     still imperfect and may not meet learners’
    while also taking on the role of an informal      expectations if there are misunderstandings
    teacher of their first language (or another       and breakdowns in a conversation, but they
    language in which they are proficient). By        are increasingly used in commercial contexts
    working on joint ‘projects’, pairs or groups of   and healthcare, and the repertoire of their
    learners can proceed at their preferred pace      application areas is rapidly growing.
    and in good alignment with their common

8   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
Evidence-based and data-based                               The evidence-based approach is also
                                                            visible in pedagogies that make use of
                                                            large collections of data sets and corpora
Choices are often made based on established
                                                            (collections of texts or recordings). In corpus-
practices. One basis for pedagogical and
                                                            based pedagogy for language learning
technological decisions is using what is
                                                            and linguistic investigations, the retrieval
already known to work, even if it does not
                                                            and analysis of language use in context
necessarily work exceedingly well. When there
                                                            – for example, in a corpus of recorded
is a need or opportunity to change or adopt
                                                            conversations – provides learners with a
something new, we may look for evidence
                                                            research-based understanding of language
that will support our choices. Evidence from
                                                            forms and functions. Learning tasks can
research studies is not always easy to find,
                                                            be designed to help learners explore word
the findings can be hard to interpret, and
                                                            forms, uses and combinations, supported by
the whole process can be time-consuming,
                                                            increasingly intelligent tools that can provide
yet compared with past generations, many
                                                            different views of the corpus data. Language
teachers have greater access to evidence
                                                            learners, as well as international students
from research, which suggests that they could
                                                            in a variety of disciplines, can develop their
engage more with evidence-based teaching.
                                                            autonomy by analysing their own use of
While it may not be possible to source reliable
                                                            language and comparing their linguistic
evidence for every aspect of pedagogy, it
                                                            choices with the patterns and structures
now exists for such aspects as good-quality
                                                            found in a corpus. Exponential growth in
feedback, the development of skills that can
                                                            collections of research studies, and slower but
help students understand how they learn, and
                                                            steady growth in large collections of texts and
conditions that make homework practices
                                                            recordings, create opportunities for teaching
more effective. This report recommends that
                                                            and learning, but they also call for new skills,
researchers work more closely with teachers
                                                            analysis tools and adaptations in pedagogical
to reflect on their needs for research, design
studies together and produce evidence in
whatever forms would be useful for practice.

1. A set of ten help sheets from the Institute of              Commonwealth of Learning (2020). Keeping the
   Educational Technology at The Open University:              doors of learning open: Covid-19. Available at:
   Ferguson, R. (2020). Teaching at a Distance:      
   Methods that Work. Blog post with ten downloadable          learning-open-covid-19 (Accessed: 27/11/20).
   help sheets, 8 January 2020. Available at:               4. An article on how distance learning differs from                     teaching online in a crisis:
   (Accessed: 27/11/20).                                       Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., &
2. A list of educational applications, platforms and           Bond, A. (2020). The Difference Between Emergency
   resources aiming to help parents, teachers, schools         Remote Teaching and Online Learning. March 27,
   and school administrators facilitate student learning       2020. Available at:
   and provide social care and interaction during periods
   of school closure:                                          difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-
   UNESCO (2020). Distance learning solutions.                 and-online-learning (Accessed: 27/11/20).
   Available at:             5. A therapist chatbot (‘Sometimes you need to talk
   educationresponse/solutions (Accessed: 27/11/20).           things through, but everyone seems to have an
3. A list of resources from the Commonwealth of                opinion or analysis of your situation. All you need is
   Learning for policy makers, school and college              someone who will listen and ask the right questions to
   administrators, teachers, parents and learners to           help you figure things out. That's Wysa’): Available at:
   assist with student learning during the closure of (Accessed: 27/11/20);
   educational institutions:                          (Accessed: 27/11/20).

                                                                                                        Introduction      9
Best learning moments
     Positive mental states for enjoyable and effective learning
     Potential impact: Medium

     Introduction                                     Background
     Our ability to learn is connected to our state   The idea of best learning moments builds on
     of mind. We may feel alert and ready to          the psychological concept of cognitive
     take on a new activity, or we may be feeling     absorption2 or ‘flow’3, which is defined as deep
     distracted or anxious and be unwilling to        involvement or immersion in an activity or
     engage. Research suggests that people            task, often accompanied by feelings of
     learn best when they are in a mental state       enjoyment. A ‘Music Paint Machine’ that
     that makes their learning easier or more         enables musicians to paint a picture by
     enjoyable. Examples of positive mental states    playing their instrument has been shown to
     in the context of learning are the feelings of   have the potential to turn the experience of
     curiosity, interest, engagement, happiness,      playing music, moving and drawing into an
     optimism, confidence and calmness. A person      optimal flow experience4 where the individual
     experiencing a best learning moment might        may feel as if they are transported into a new
     have higher-than-average feelings of interest    reality. These are mental states and feelings
     in a task and will be able to respond with       that people experience when engaged in an
     appropriate skills to a challenge presented by   activity that is appropriately challenging to
     the task1. These moments can result in deep      their skill level, resulting in full concentration
     learning and high levels of satisfaction.        and focus.

     Best learning moments, also referred to as
     ‘optimal learning moments’, are an emerging
     topic of current importance for several
     reasons. One reason is that there are reports
     of heightened attention and engagement when
     using some technology-enhanced learning
     applications, and these states of mind can
     contribute to more effective learning. Best
     learning moments may also be particularly
     memorable, since strong emotions contribute
     to the formation of long-term memories.
     Therefore, long-term retention in memory
     may be enhanced. Another reason is that           Interest, challenge and skill: learning words while
     there are new ways of capturing or recording      absorbed in a crossword puzzle.
     best learning moments and using them for
     reflecting on learning or improving the design
     of learning technology. Finally, best learning
     moments align well with learner-centred
     approaches that take into account individual
     differences in learning.                         mental states and feelings that
                                                      people experience when engaged
                                                      in an activity that is appropriately

10   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
In leisure time, feelings such as boredom or      change in teaching method, such as when a
curiosity can lead individuals to look for an     computer simulation is used.
enjoyable challenge and develop their skills
to be able to meet that challenge. Activities     Best learning moments in
that people choose to do in their leisure         technology-enhanced learning
time, such as painting, composing music,          Learning activities and technology platforms
doing a crossword or taking part in sports        can be designed to create opportunities
and rituals, may create good conditions           for best learning moments. This approach
for best learning moments. The process of         puts the learner at the centre of the learning
recognising a challenge and applying or           process and focuses on the learning
developing necessary skills leads to discovery    experience and its possible technological
and growth. The person may be so absorbed         enhancement. It acknowledges the value of
in what they are doing or experiencing that       a person’s enjoyment or satisfaction in their
they lose all sense of time. Such a state of      interactions with technology.
cognitive absorption may last a long time,
although not necessarily.                         Designing the best possible ‘user experience’
                                                  with computer systems and applications
Best learning moments may occur in                includes considering the user’s satisfaction
situations involving hands-on activity and        (whether they will be satisfied with the system
participation, such as when trainee medical       in their context of use) alongside other
staff are with patients rather than at their      aspects such as ease of use, efficiency and
workstations5. Although listening, watching       effectiveness. Designing the best possible
and reading also commonly result in a             ‘learner experience’ for technology-enhanced
state of absorption and positive feelings,        learning (TEL) involves consideration of
without the elements of appropriate skill and     additional aspects, including the quality of
challenge they might not result in learning.      the educational content and methods of
Researchers investigating learning in science     evaluating learning. Many educators and TEL
subjects (biology, chemistry and physics) at      researchers believe that learners using a TEL
secondary-school level have expressed the         system should find the experience engaging
hope that ‘optimal learning moments’ might        and relevant.
motivate individuals to seek similar types of
experiences in the future1 and will encourage     Designing TEL systems that can promote
more students to study science subjects.          or encourage best learning moments is still
                                                  a relatively new field, but there are several
Best learning moments could also be               promising ways forward:
opportunities for ‘teachable moments’.
A teachable moment is an unplanned                • Learning with mobile devices (mobile
opportunity that arises when a teacher              learning) offers good conditions for best
senses that students are engaged and ready          learning moments because it highlights
to absorb some insights. For example, the           participation, personal contexts and sensory
teacher may be able to make a general point         experiences7. A related idea within mobile
from a shared experience. The teachable             learning is that of an ‘opportune moment’,
moment is a fleeting opportunity that is sensed     when students have short bursts of time
and seized by the teacher. Teaching tips for        that they can use for learning in the course
creating personally memorable moments               of their day. In this case, a mobile learning
for students include talking about students’        system might send a prompt or notification
interests, asking challenging questions and         to a learner to alert them to a small amount
accepting that all students are different.          of learning they can undertake, such as
                                                    memorising vocabulary6. The learner then
Other related concepts include breakthroughs        chooses whether or not to engage, which
and critical events in learning. These are          might depend on whether or not they feel it
moments when understanding of a difficult           is the right moment.
concept is suddenly achieved thanks to a

                                                                           Best learning moments    11
• To engage learners, popular games-based          understand the idea of best learning moments
       TEL environments use multiple design             from students’, teachers’ and researchers’
       elements, such as avatars and storylines,        points of view.
       challenges, rewards and learning tools
       such as journals8. Successful game types         Best learning moments can be difficult to
       include role-playing and fantasy games.          capture, although use of a mobile-phone
       Engagement in games is dependent                 app (for example, one designed specifically
       on the design of the game but also on            for ‘experience sampling’) is one way to
       the players’ attributes, which include           enable students to record an experience
       their characteristics, personalities and         very soon after it occurred. Using such a
       motivations to play.                             mobile-phone app can also enable students to
                                                        spend a designated period of time reflecting
     • Immersive experiences in virtual                 continuously on their best learning moments,
       environments or when using social media          sharing their findings with others and
       are associated with freedom to explore,          discovering what works best for their peers.
       stimulation of the senses, adventure and
       novelty. These experiences can induce            Best learning moments are perhaps also
       feelings of excitement, engagement and           those that are worth remembering, or those
       absorption. Individuals’ personality traits      that tend to be captured in our memories.
       play a role, with some being more eager          Strong and lasting memories of what was
       than others to expose themselves to new          learnt tend to be associated with experiential
       situations and stimuli.                          or active learning, with events or people that
     • Learning analytics data from online learning     students consider to be significant and with
       environments and other sources such              emotions they experienced at the time.
       as student surveys could help teachers,
       students, researchers and learning               Conclusion
       designers discover more about conditions         The idea of best learning moments provides
       supporting best learning moments.                a helpful focus for identifying what different
                                                        people consider to be ‘best’ in a learning
     Capturing best learning                            scenario. It encompasses several related
     moments                                            ideas that have been around in education
                                                        for a while. The best-learning-moments
     How can we know when best learning
                                                        approach can be applied in teaching and
     moments have occurred? Currently most
                                                        learning in a casual way by simply asking
     of the evidence comes from students and
                                                        students what they consider to be their best
     researchers. Students describing times when
                                                        learning moments and drawing conclusions
     they experienced enjoyment, feeling happy,
                                                        from their responses for the design of learning
     successful, confident or enlightened while
                                                        experiences for those individuals or groups.
     learning, may be describing some of their
                                                        It can also be done in a more systematic way
     best learning moments. Researchers have
                                                        by capturing evidence of such moments and
     suggested that we need to focus on when an
                                                        analysing their components to develop models
     individual is experiencing higher-than-average
                                                        of best learning moments for individuals or
     feelings of interest, skill and challenge during
                                                        groups, for different disciplines and purposes.
     a specific task and in relation to feelings
                                                        Best learning moments may empower
     such as happiness, enjoyment, confidence
                                                        students through personal and emotional
     and a lack of boredom or confusion1. Since
                                                        development, reinforcing positive experiences
     any challenge may be perceived differently
                                                        and a recognition that learning can be
     among students – some may welcome it,
                                                        enjoyable as well as effective.
     some may find it causes anxiety or stress – it
     seems there is a need for more research to

12   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
1. A study that explored how often students were             5. A journal article describing a web-based educational
   engaged in their science classes and their affective         tool called ‘Learning Moment’ and its use in an
   states, using an innovative methodology that                 emergency department:
   recorded their experiences where they occurred:               Sheng, A. Y., Sullivan, R., Kleber, K., Mitchell, P. M.,
    Schneider, B., Krajcik, J., Lavonen, J., Salmela-Aro,        Liu, J. H., McGreevy, J., McCabe, K., Atema, A. &
    K., Broda, M., Spicer, J., Bruner, J., Moeller, J.,          Schneider, J. I. (2018, January). Fantastic Learning
    Linnansaari, J., Juuti, K., & Viljaranta, J. (2016).         Moments and Where to Find Them. West Journal of
    Investigating optimal learning moments in U.S. and           Emergency Medicine. 2018 Jan; 19(1): pp.59–65.
    Finnish science classes. Journal of Research in              Available at:
    Science Teaching, 53: pp. 400–421.                 
2. An article exploring the concept of cognitive                 PMC5785202/ (Accessed: 12/11/20).
   absorption, defined as ‘a state of deep involvement       6. Results from a study using a mobile app to prompt
   with software’:                                              short foreign-language vocabulary learning sessions
    Agarwal, R., & Karahanna, E. (2000). Time flies             throughout the day:
    when you’re having fun: Cognitive absorption and             Dingler, T., Weber, D., Pielot, M., Cooper, J., Chang,
    beliefs about information technology usage.                  C.-C., & Henze, N. (2017, September). Language
    MIS quarterly, pp. 665–694. Available at:                    learning on-the-go: Opportune moments and design                       of mobile microlearning sessions. Proceedings of the
    febd1d9ff8e6d29b0f5b34c61f87040cc606.pdf                     19th international conference on human-computer
    (Accessed: 21/11/20).                                        interaction with mobile devices and services, pp.
                                                                 1–12. Available at:
3. An updated edition of a book by Mihaly
   Csikszentmihalyi about the state of ‘flow’:         
    Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Flow: The classic
                                                                 Mobile-Microlearning-Sessions.pdf (Accessed:
    work on how to achieve happiness. Rider, London
    (updated edition).
                                                             7. A research article reporting on the use of
4. A journal article describing an interactive music
                                                                an instrument for evaluating mobile learning
   system and experience in which the musician creates
                                                                environments, with an emphasis on usability and user
   a digital painting by playing an instrument and by
   moving on a pressure mat:
                                                                 Harpur, P., & De Villiers, M. R. (2015). MUUX-E, a
    Nijs, L., Moens, B., Lesaffre, M., & Leman, M. (2012).
                                                                 framework of criteria for evaluating the usability, user
    The Music Paint Machine: stimulating self-monitoring
                                                                 experience and educational features of m-learning
    through the generation of creative visual output using
                                                                 environments. South African Computer Journal,
    a technology-enhanced learning tool. Journal of New
                                                                 56(1), pp. 1–21.
    Music Research, 41(1), pp. 79–101. Available at:
                                                             8. An academic article presenting game design features
                                                                that promote engagement and learning:
    Machine_Stimulating_Self-monitoring_Through_                 Jabbar, A. I., & Felicia, P. (2015). Gameplay
    the_Generation_of_Creative_Visual_Output_                    engagement and learning in game-based learning:
    Using_a_Technology-enhanced_Learning_Tool                    A systematic review. Review of Educational
    (Accessed: 12/11/20).                                        Research, 85(4), pp. 740–779.

•   Elements of best learning moments explained by           •   A teacher’s account of a breakthrough moment with
    Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro from the University          a challenging student:
    of Helsinki:                                        (Accessed:                  tln_cerevic.html (Accessed: 12/11/20).
    12/11/20).                                               •   A ScienceDirect automatically generated page on
•   Professor Stephen Heppell’s top ten characteristics          the topic of teachable moments:
    of best learning experiences:                                   psychology/teachable-moment (Accessed:
    (Accessed: 21/11/20).                                        12/11/20).

•   Dr Chris Drew’s post on his website, giving examples
    of teachable moments:
    (Accessed: 12/11/20).

                                                                                              Best learning moments         13
Enriched realities
     Extending learning with augmented and virtual reality
     Potential impact: Medium

     Setting up an experiment in the lab, exploring     Augmented reality and virtual reality are not
     on a field trip, building a model together:        entirely new – educators were already using
     these are exciting and memorable educational       them in the last century. What is new is their
     experiences for learners in the same place         increasing use in daily life, the falling prices
     at the same time, but they pose a challenge        of associated technology and the worldwide
     during the Covid-19 global pandemic.               demand for interactive but – as demonstrated
     Augmented reality and virtual reality make         during the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance –
     these shared experiences possible. They also       socially distanced educational experiences.
     open up opportunities that are not available       Together, these factors make it important to
     in the classroom, such as experimenting with       review what we already know about enriched
     moon rock, exploring the depths of the ocean       realities, to consider how they can be used to
     or working together to build a village.            support learning without massive investment
                                                        in technology and training, and to look forward
     It is increasingly normal to enrich day-to-day
                                                        to possibilities that are currently being trialled.
     reality with the use of technology. Lenses
     in telescopes, microscopes and spectacles
                                                        What enriched reality can offer
     enable us to see things more clearly or to
     see the world in new ways. Portable music          Enriched reality extends what is possible
     systems add a soundtrack to our lives.             in education and training, and it provides
     Scanning a QR (quick response) code with           exciting new experiences that engage learners
     our smartphone links us to information             immediately, including:
     about an object or a location. Millions of         • remote participation – field trips provide
     people around the world have been playing            opportunities to broaden understanding
     augmented reality games such as Pokémon              and develop new skills. VR widens the
     Go for years. Many of today’s college students       possibilities, enabling exploration of places
     have explored virtual worlds such as Minecraft       that would be difficult, dangerous or
     and Club Penguin since they were small.              impossible to visit for a learner, such as the
     These days, several types of reality are             surface of Mars or the inside of a volcano
     blended. Day-to-day reality – or physical          • time machine – trips through time are
     reality – is our normal experience. Augmented        possible; students can walk with dinosaurs,
     reality (AR) can be viewed through a device          engage with historic events or watch
     such as a smartphone. When we use an                 landscapes change over the centuries
     AR application on the device, it overlays          • simultaneous engagement with physical
     information on our surroundings or objects           world – augmented reality allows learners
     around us. That information might appear as          to interact with the world around them and
     text, video, audio or graphics (for example,         with AR elements at the same time
     mythical creatures). Virtual reality (VR) is
     computer generated and typically experienced       • remote presence – people who cannot be
     via a headset; it provides a three-dimensional       together in the physical world can interact
     environment we can interact with – for               and work together in a VR environment,
     example, a place where we can move through           manipulating virtual objects and moving
     a landscape, lift objects and chat with friends.     around the setting together.

14   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
In a virtual world, students can develop their understanding of structures such as aqueducts by working
 to recreate them.

These ways of engaging can support learners            Making use of enriched reality
in understanding concepts, practising skills
                                                       All over the world, enriched reality is being
and performing tasks or procedures:
                                                       used to support learning. The following cases
• focused immersion – educators can shape              introduce some of the possibilities.
  or modify a scenario, drawing attention to
                                                       Clinical simulations enhanced with mobile
  the aspects that are important or stripping
                                                       mixed reality: Researchers in Auckland, New
  away elements – for example, showing
                                                       Zealand, gave student paramedics a 360°
  a human body and then the underlying
                                                       overview of a critical-care scenario using a
  skeleton or muscles
                                                       VR headset and handheld controllers1. The
• dive deeper for a more nuanced                       sights and sounds of the video helped to
  understanding of content – learners have             immerse them in the scenario. Students were
  time to explore elements of an experience            provided with information and updates by
  in detail and can re-run each one many               radio and text, as in an emergency situation.
  times                                                They evaluated the scene in an authentic
• virtual rehearsal – in virtual reality,              way before moving into a simulation suite to
  the same situation can be encountered                collect patient information and ‘treat’ a realistic
  multiple times so students can trial different       mannequin.
  approaches, perfecting an emergency
                                                       Medical training: Enriched reality makes
  response technique, practising a difficult
                                                       it possible to look inside the human body
  procedure or coordinating teamwork
                                                       without making an incision. This is useful for
• just-in-time support – in an augmented               medical training in equipment, techniques and
  or virtual environment, students can pull up         procedures2. Virtual reality can also be used
  information that is immediately relevant to          to simulate patient interactions. Practising
  what they are trying to do – for instance,           procedures in simulated environments is
  a set of instructions on how to perform an           a low-risk way of developing skills. For
  unfamiliar procedure.                                example, students at the Beijing University of
                                                       Chinese Medicine learn acupuncture with VR

                                                                                         Enriched realities   15
A projection in Bath fills in missing elements of a    A second projection adds detail and colour to the
      ruined temple pediment.                                original ruined temple pediment.

     Roman history: The Roman baths in the city             Safety training for construction workers:
     of Bath, UK, enhance understanding of the              The most memorable form of safety training
     historic site with enriched reality. Animated          is experiencing or witnessing an accident. In
     projections and soundtracks populate the               the USA, the Center for Innovative Research
     site with ancient Roman visitors who move              in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) is developing VR
     around the space, interact, bathe and chat.            training that makes this approach possible
     The fragmentary remains of the magnificent             without harming students. The virtual
     temple pediment are regularly enriched with            experience is enhanced by ‘haptic’ technology
     projections that add missing sections and              that recreates feelings of touch and motion.
     colours4.                                              Learners will be able to explore a hazardous
                                                            virtual environment. If they don’t avoid all
     Signing avatars: Learning sign language                the dangers, they will receive audio, visual
     from videos and pictures is challenging,               and feel feedback that simulates what
     because two-dimensional representations                would happen if they made the same
     cannot capture all aspects of communication.           mistake at work6.
     The SAIL project at Gallaudet University in
     Washington, DC, has developed a 3D learning            Teacher training: Kent State University in
     environment. Signing avatars were created              Ohio has been using 360° cameras to produce
     by using motion-capture recordings of deaf             immersive videos of classrooms. These are
     signers. Learners encounter these avatars in           used by teachers in training to create a shared
     a VR environment accessed via head-                    experience that supports rich conversations
     mounted goggles. In this environment, their            about what is going on at different points in
     movements are captured via a gesture-                  the room and in the lesson. The technology
     tracking system. A teaching avatar guides              also makes it possible to compare and discuss
     learners through a lesson in which they                the different aspects that trainees and experts
     observe and produce signs5.                            focus on during the lesson7.

16   Innovating Pedagogy 2021
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