GDTE Development/Facilitating a learning session

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GDTE microcourse: Facilitating a learning session

Learning outcome: At the successful complete of this course, students will be able to:

transfer adult learning and teaching principles into a specific subject/work context, by planning, delivering and critiquing a session/learning sequence (covering a specific topic).

Session Learning pathway E-Activities Comments
Orientation generic to all micro courses(about doing a micro course)
Planning observe others teaching session & creating own plan for a session

resources from why/what & how of planning a lesson

resources from Gaining Foundation Skills for Learning and Teaching/GFS Lesson Planning Module

Planning a session

Need preparatory info on learning and teaching observations -

Facilitating learning undertaking a teaching session and being observed, use 'simple' tool to gather student feedback

Gaining Foundation Skills for Learning and Teaching/GFS Teaching/Facilitation Approaches Module Learning_and_Teaching_in_Practice/Facilitating_a_session/Facilitation_methods

Teaching observation template - File:Learning and Teaching Observation Template Full.pdf

Evaluation/Reflection reflect and critique on session delivered, consideration of feedback from all sources Learning_and_Teaching_in_Practice/Critiquing_a_session/Evaluation_methods,


Demonstrate, using examples from practice, how you:

  • apply adult learning and teaching principles into your specific subject/work context through the planning, facilitation and critque of a specific learning session.

In compiling your evidence to demonstrate the learning outcome identified above include a narrative that:

  • explores what you have learned and the relevance of this to your work
  • includes discussion of how your new learning has impacted on your practice and influenced future actions you may take
  • is supported with educational literature and other forms of information
  • is supported with your choice of evidence, that is authentic, current, sufficient and relevant

Evidence must include:

  • outcomes of all the e-activities
  • micro-blog and discussion forum contributions - to be confirmed
  • any additional evidence that supports your learning

Example of marking schedule

GDTE Marking Criteria

Opening Page blurb

Name of Course

Facilitating a learning session

Summary Sentence

Learn about planning, delivering and critiquing a session/learning sequence through application to a specific subject or context.

What’s it about?

Global education trends now focus on outputs and learning achieved rather than inputs and the acquisition of content. To enable gains in student achievement and learning it is important to carefully plan how learning experiences will be provided and facilitated. It is also important to reflect on what has occurred to further improve future experiences. This course encourages you to consider a learner-centred approach to the planning and facilitating of a learning session and supports the development of reflective skills to enable you to sustain positive learning experiences for students.

What will I learn?

This course is designed for educators who want to create positive learning experiences through learning how to plan and deliver a learning session. This course will help you to:

  • learn about available tools and processes for planning learning sessions
  • consider various approaches and activities for session facilitation
  • review ways of critiquing a learning session and identify key focus areas to reflect on
  • use your learning in your facilitation of learning sessions

What’s involved?

You will participate in an open international online course for 4 weeks. You will need to allocate up to 10 hours per week for the duration of the course including time spent on assessment activities. The course is divided into 3 sessions inclusive of suggested learning activities:

  1. observing others facilitation of learning sessions and planning for your own
  2. Exploring a range of learning activities and facilitating a learning session
  3. Reflecting on the facilitated learning session and considering how to be use multiple sources of feedback to inform future planning

Self directed study to complete the assessments for this course is included in the time allowance identified above for learners aiming for the Certificate of Achievement and/or credit towards the GDTE Teaching and Learning in Practice Course.


Anyone is free to participate in this course. An internet connection and basic web browsing skills are recommended with the ability to create a blog and microblog account (instructions and self-study tutorials provided.)

Learners aiming to submit assessments for formal academic credit will need to meet the normal university admission requirements of the conferring institution (eg language proficiency and school leaving certificates).


Observe others teaching session & creating own plan for a session

possible pathway

  • what and how to learn from observing others facilitating sessions
  • importance of need to plan for learning
  • tools to use to assist/support planning
  • creation of own session plan


Icon objectives.jpg

During this learning session we will explore:

  • how to use teaching observation in our own professional development as a teacher.
  • how to effectively plan a teaching session

Video signpost

Alterio 17.01 to 20.38


This session looks at planning by focusing on two key stages:

  1. Observing how others teach. This will help us to identify the sorts of things that need to be included in a teaching plan. It will also lead into the following sessions.
  2. Writing an effective teaching plan. A teaching plan is a key tool for effective teaching and learning.

In this resource, we will use a simple scenario to illustrate key points:


Case Study: Emilia

Introducing Emilia

Emilia teaches several courses as part of her institution's Bachelor of Nursing.

She is recognised by her department and institution as a very successful teacher. She achieves good results, and students enjoy and are motivated in her classes.

Because of this, she is often called on to provide expert advice and support to other teachers, especially those new to the job.

Observing a teaching session

What is the purpose of teaching observation?

Note that throughout this micro-course we are focused on teaching observation as professional development, not as performance appraisal.

Observing other teachers is founded in the concept that effective professional development cannot happen just through 'book learning': it requires a component of experiential learning.

Observation is an important part of learning how to teach ... classroom observation presents an opportunity to see real-life teachers in real-life teaching situations. Source: Olenka Bilash

The experiential learning approach incorporates not just direct experience: to be effective, the experience needs to be part of cycle including reflecting on the experience and applying what has been learned:


See if you can identify how Emilia uses aspects of the experiential learning cycle in supporting new teachers in her department:


Case Study: Emilia

How Emilia uses observation of teaching

In providing support to new teachers, Emilia ensures that early on they get the opportunity to observe one or more teaching sessions - maybe her own teaching, maybe that of another experienced teacher in her department.

Before the observation, we talk through what the new teacher might look for during the session. Then, after the observation, we have a chat about what they observed and how this might be useful to their own teaching.

I give them an observation guide as to the sorts of thing to look for. They keep a few brief notes during the session - this helps them keep focused during the observation, and we refer to it in our discussion afterwards.

They always find the process very helpful - interestingly, they learn as much by seeing things that didn't go well or could be improved as by seeing great teaching!

Check out Bilash's The Value of Observation. Although a few details relate specifically to language classrooms, the general principles are applicable to teaching in any subject.

What makes observation effective?

Observation should be focused on the learning process, not the content taught. In other words, when observing a teaching session we should look for:

  • How does learning take place? What learning activities do the learners in? How do they interact with the content and with others? What resources or tools are used in the process?
  • What teaching activities support these learning activities? How does the teacher guide, motivate, engage, and support learners?

Watch the video on Effective Group Work in College Science Classrooms: Part 1. (Although it is focused on group work, it does include valuable footage of three learning activities in a classroom.)

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Microblog activity

Please use the hashtag #FLS1 for this activity.

  1. Choose one of the three classroom learning activities shown in the video.
  2. Outline how the learning process takes place: what are the learners doing during the activity?
  3. Describe how the teaching process supports the learning process: what is the teacher's role?

As Bilash points out, It may be threatening to be subject to peer observation, so observation needs to be done in a considerate and respectful fashion. As an observer, you will need to:

  • Have the full support of the observed teacher to carry out the observation. Agree on what the observation is for (your own professional development, not to give them feedback about how well they teach!) and details such as the time, date and venue. Agree on the guidelines or checklist you will use (see below).
  • Be unobtrusive and respectful to learners during the observation. We suggest you don't attempt to video or photograph the learning process. Make sure that learners are advised that you are present for the sake of your own learning, not to assess them or appraise the teacher.
  • Respect the privacy of all concerned: do not record the names of the teacher or learners.

In addition, observation is most effective when clear guidelines are put in place: usually the observer and the teacher being observed agree on a checklist of things that the observer will look for during the session.

This Teaching observation guidePDF down.png is quite open-ended and is based on Chickering and Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education:

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Activity: observing teaching
  1. Arrange to observe a teaching session: usually this would be a session facilitated by one of your colleagues. If you find it difficulty to arrange an observation, contact the course co-ordinator for this micro-course. ***CHECK THIS***
  2. Agree on the observation guidelines with the teacher to be observed: you can use one of the checklists presented earlier, or one which is used in your own organisation. Make sure the guidelines are focused on observation as part fo professional development, not as part of performance appraisal!
  3. Carry out the observation as agreed: make sure you are respectful to the teacher and learners during the observation, and record notes during the observation.
  4. Discuss what you have learned with the observed teacher: remember that this discussion is to help you reflect on and understand what you have learned, not to give feedback on their performance.

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Blog activity

Please use the hashtag #FLS2 for this activity.

  1. Reflect on what you observed: what have you learned? How will you apply this learning to your own teaching?
  2. Reflect on the whole process: how has the observation and reflection been helpful? How might you do if differently in future?

Planning a teaching session

Why is planning important?

  • A well structured lesson increases students' motivation and interest.
  • Planning your lesson ensures the content will be in tune with the required learning of the course.
  • Planning also helps to filter your content and prompts you to discard what isn't relevant.


Emilia's advice:

In a traditional lecture, the only planning you really need is a list of content!

But if you need to include more challenging and varied learning activities like small-group group problem solving, action methods or role play, you really need a written plan.

That's why part of my work with new teachers is to help them with written planing - it's essential if they are to be effective in a modern teaching environment.

What should we include in a plan?

There are many ways to record teaching plans. While quite brief or informal methods have their place, they often do not provide enough detail. A useful written plan needs to include enough information so that:

  • Another teacher could facilitate the session, incorporating the same learning activities, if you were unavailable.
  • You could facilitate the same session a year or more in the future without having to redesign it.
  • You can review and reflect on the session yourself later on - what worked well and what didn't.


Emilia's advice:

We foster a reflective process for teachers as part of their ongoing professional development.

Early on in my work in mentoring new teachers, I found that when they didn't have a written plan they were limited in the amount of reflection they could do. And they didn't make very good progress in developing their teaching skills.

Now I insist on a written plan that includes specific information - it really helps them reflect on their teaching and makes the mentoring process much more productive. I don't mind how they format it, as long it includes the right sort of detail.

Emilia's planning template

This is the template Emilia suggests teachers use. Note the column set aside for the learner activity:


Page 2 includes space for details of the formative assessment as well as focus questions for your own reflection after the session:


Because the assessment for this micro-course requires evidence of planning and reflection, you will need to use a reasonably detailed planning format. We recommend you download and use Emilia's template as a useful model. ***NEED TO RESOLVE WAY TO DISTRIBUTE A WP DOCUMENT HERE***

(If you find this lesson plan format useful, you can download a template in MS Word format from within the Moodle course:

Icon activity.jpg
  1. View the video again of Maxine Alterio's description of the use of action methods in a Physiology class. <<Alterio 17.01 20.38>>
  2. Imagine you have to create a lesson plan for this session for a colleague. From Alterio's description, list the stages of the sequence of learning activities. You might need to listen to her description a couple of times!
  3. Compare what you have written with our attempt to do the same thing: click on the image directly below. Note that the plan is incomplete.

If our plan is sufficient, another Physiology teacher should be able to teach the same session based on what's in the lesson plan. Could you?

Fragment of a sample lesson plan

Linking learning activities to models and theories

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Microblog activity

Please use the hashtag #FLS3 for this activity.

Consider the learning activities in Alterio's description:

  • Which of the three strategies of Active, experiential and deep learning do they incorporate and why?
  • Which of the five theories and models of learning do they represent and why?

Note: In the assessment for this micro-course, it is essential that you incorporate a range of strategies (including active, experiential and deep learning) into your planning and facilitation. Please make sure you are clear about this requirement before going on to the assessment of this session!

The planning process

In any good design, a planning process must first be followed. Ako Aotearoa has developed a useful guide to the process you might find helpful:

Click on the expand button Blue-collapse-button.png to the right of each stage of the process for more information:

Acknowledgement: sections of this topic have been based on Ako Aotearoa's Signposts publication (CC-BY-SA).


This activity is part of the summative assessment for the course.

Icon activity.jpg
Planning activity

Please include the hash tag #FLS4 for this assessment.

  1. Create a lesson plan for a teaching session - whatever planning template you choose to use, you will need to make sure that you include the key elements from the sample template discussed earlier. Pay special attention to:
    • The learning objectives for the session - make sure these are well written and focused on what the learners will be able to achieve by the end of the session.
    • The sequence of learning activities - make it clear what the learners are going to be doing to engage with the topic at each stage. Aim to include interaction among learners - eg small group problem-solving. You need to avoid delivering a traditional lecture, so make sure you include a significant amount of active, student-centred learning.
  2. Share the completed plan using your blog - probably as an attachment to a brief blog post.
  3. Agree with at least one other course participant to share feedback on each other's lesson plans. Post feedback as public comments on the blog post so that others can learn from your feedback.


  1. The session could be face to face or online.
  2. You will facilitate this lesson in the next session.

Facilitating learning

Undertaking a teaching session and being observed, use 'simple' tool to gather student feedback

possible pathway

  • exploring facilitation methods / active learning approaches
  • structuring the flow of a learning session around active learning
  • having own teaching observed

Video signpost

Woodhouse 16.08 18.26


In this session you will facilitate the lesson you planned in the previous session, incorporating useful feedback from others. For assessment purposes, you will need to have the teaching session observed by a colleague.


Teaching session plan

  1. Review the feedback you have received from your peers and the facilitator of this micro-course and consider how you might improve the plan. In particular:
    1. Are the learning objectives realistic and relevant?
    2. Is there a sufficient level of active, experiential and deep learning?
    3. Are the time allocations for each learning activity appropriate?
  2. Make any changes needed to enhance the planned session and lead to a more successful learning process.

Feedback from learners

To inform your own reflection on the teaching session, you should also at this stage consider how you will get feedback from learners. This could be gathered through questioning, but an anonymous written evaluation is often much more reliable. See Evaluation methods for ideas on how to gather feedback form learners. Since you are just looking for feedback on the effectiveness of a single session rather than a full evaluation of a course, the section on Informal methods might be the most helpful.


Extra resources

  • Gaining and responding to feedback on your teaching

Computer and paper


  1. Make sure the classroom is booked and that you will have access to the class. If this is a course you normally teach, this should be straightforward.
  2. Prepare any learning resources needed to ensure the teaching session is successful. These might include:
    • Worksheets and handouts.
    • Online access and logins to any computer system to be used.
    • Special equipment for practical activities.
    • Smartboard, data projector or other classroom equipment.
    • Feedback sheets (so you can gather feedback from learners)

Remember the Physiology action methods class described in the previous session? It was clearly heavily reliant on the 'body parts' cards that were used throughout the session. The success of such experiential learning activities is often closely related to the quality of the learning resources used to to support them.


In the previous session, you observed someone else teaching. In this session, you will need to be observed by another teacher and get their feedback on your teaching session.

Note: the purpose of the observation is to provide data for your own evaluation of the teaching session. So it's essential that the observer provides an in-depth constructive critique of the session.

Who will do the observation?

The observer could be:

  • One of your colleagues. If so, make sure you choose an experienced teacher rather than someone new to the role.
  • A staff developer from your institution or department.

Whoever you choose, it's essential that they are able to observe and give feedback which is objective and informed by their own in-depth knowledge of adult teaching and learning.

In the next session, you will reflect on your own teaching. It is vital that this is informed by feedback from learners as well as from an expert observer. Without such feedback, you will find it difficult to do the in-depth reflection that is needed.

Please contact the facilitator of this course if you need help to find a suitable observer.

How will the observer give feedback?

The observer will need to document their observation using an appropriate observation sheet. We recommend you use Otago Polytechnic's Teaching observation template. Your institution or department may have a similar template that you prefer to use.

Please contact the facilitator of this course if you are unsure which observation feedback template to use.


Icon activity.jpg
Blog activity

Please use the hashtag #FLS5 for this activity.

  1. Decide on the details of the teaching session that will be observed (course, session, date, time etc).
  2. Choose a suitable observer and get their agreement to carry out the observation.
  3. Choose an appropriate observation template for the observer to record their feedback.
  4. Document these decisions as a blog post. If you are using a feedback template other than the Otago Polytechnic one, include it as an attachment.
  5. Ensure you get the go-ahead from the course facilitator before proceeding. This is to help ensure that the process is successful for you.

Facilitate the session

  1. Carry out the observed teaching session as planned. Make sure you gather feedback from learners at the end of the session.
  2. Straight after the session, record some brief reflections of your own on what went well and what didn't go so well.
  3. Meet with the observer soon after the session to discuss their written feedback. When receiving feedback, we recommend:
    • Focus on listening to the feedback as it is given. Avoid trying to explain or justify what went on in the session as this will distract you from fully understanding the feedback given.
    • Ask for clarification if there is anything in the written or spoken feedback that you are unsure of.
    • You may not agree with everything that is said - don't argue the point, just accept what is said as useful feedback for now.
    • Finish by thanking them for the time and effort they have given.

Reflection and Evaluation

Reflect and critique on the session delivered, consideration of feedback from all sources

possible pathway

  • what is self evaluation
  • hearing and responding to feedback
  • own reflections
  • action planned from reflection

Video signpost

Barton 16.27 17.29


In this final session you will reflect on your own experience and the feedback from others to evaluate the teaching session you facilitated in the previous session.

Models and theories

What is reflection?

According to Kolb's cycle, reflection is the stage of the reflective process which follows action or experience:


Following this reflection, the reflective practitioner moves on to further planning and action by applying what has been learned during the reflection phase.

Reflection is deliberate and mindful thinking about one’s experiences and the self-evaluation of feelings, decisions, understandings and actions.

Reflective practice is a process associated with professional learning, which includes effective reflection and the development of metacognition, and leads to decisions for action, learning, achievement of goals and changes to immediate and future practice.
Source: A Framework to guide professional learning and reflective practice by Hegarty, 2011


Emilia's perspective

Hegarty's definition of reflective practice is very much in line with what we do in our department. As well as the teaching observations, a big part of my role is to act as a mentor to help our teachers to reflect on their own teaching practice.

It's a key part of our teachers' professional development, and it incorporates not just looking back (reflection on experience) but also looking forward - how we make well-considered changes to what we do.


Further reading

  • Reflective Practice

What is evaluation?

The term evaluation is often used for the formal process by which courses and/ or their delivery are reviewed by the institution as part of the ongoing quality assurance process.

The term may also refer to less formal reviews or critiques of classroom practices - this is often called formative evaluation since (like formative assessment) its purpose is improvement rather than providing an official 'seal of approval'.

The term self-evaluation is used for situations where we review or critique our own practice: this may be for the purpose of improving practice,or as part of a wider formal process of quality assurance.

In the previous session you received feedback on your teaching session from two main sources:

  • Learners - you gathered feedback from them at the end of the session
  • An observer - who gave written and spoken feedback based on their observation

Gathering feedback from others is a key early stage of all evaluation, including self-evaluation. And evaluation can be seen as not just looking back (reviewing what has happened) but also as looking forward - how can we improve what we do?

In its broad sense, then, evaluation can be seen as paralleling the role of reflection in reflective practice. And when we refer in this session to the reflective process, a component of self-evaluation is implicit.


Further reading

  • Evaluation methods
  • Evaluation cookbook

Reflection in practice

In this section you will reflect on your teaching practice. Your reflection will draw on and be informed by:

  • Feedback from learners
  • Feedback from the observer
  • Your own initial thoughts you noted after the session

Although the observed session will be the key focus, your reflection will also need to look at the bigger picture:

  • Your current teaching strengths and weaknesses, and how these relate to your prior experiences as a teacher
  • Future priorities for your professional development as teacher, including:
    • Specific areas or skills you'd like to develop
    • Possible strategies for your professional development


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Portfolio activity

You may complete this activity fully online or submit parts as a paper-based portfolio of evidence. For the online component, please use the hashtag #FLS6. ***CHECK****

  1. An in-depth reflective report (maximum 2,000 words) on your teaching practice, including:
    1. A self-evaluation of the teaching session. This will need to draw on and explore in some depth the key points arising from feedback from the observer and from learners.
    2. An analysis of your overall teaching strengths and weaknesses.
    3. An outline of areas for further development over the next 12 months (approximately), including teaching and learning strategies you plan to introduce and professional development you plan to undertake.
  2. Copies of supporting documents, including:
    1. The lesson plan for the observed teaching session.
    2. The completed observation sheet with feedback from the observer.
    3. Feedback from learners on the teaching session.
    4. Your own notes of the teaching session - eg your formative notes from immediately after the session. These might be included as brief bullet points at the foot of the lesson plan.
    5. Other documents you feel might be relevant to your reflective report - eg information on potential professional development opportunities or strategies.