2 Methods and techniques

1. Selected standard FA methods and techniques

  • OBSERVATION (targeted/untargeted observation of student behaviour by the teacher; targeted observation is accompanied by observation/monitoring files)
  • SHORT TESTS (short tests, mini-questionnaires, applied at key-points of the teaching activity, assessed by the teacher / self-assessed / peer-assessed; frequency may vary from weekly to once/twice/semester; assessed to provide feed-back to students about their progress and to teachers about the efficacy of their teaching, or about the level of previous student knowledge on a certain topic; may be graded if successful, to foster and reward active learning, but should remain ungraded if unsuccessful and feed-forward should be provided to help catching-up)
  • EVALUATIVE CONVERSATION (individual or small-group conversation including formative feedback)
  • CASE STUDY PRESENTATIONS (selected topics studied by students individually then presented in class and discussed collectively; choice of subject may be individual, possibly out of a given list, or pre-set by the teacher; feed-back and questions, from both teacher and students, inform both learning and teaching)
  • ASSESSMENT OF WORK-IN-PROGRESS DRAFTS (progress assessment; – assessment of a given design assignment, at different intermediary steps; most often, feedback occurs live, either within a small student group (c10-12 students), with a pair of students working together, or individually; proves most effective when students also attend their peers’ work-in-progress assessment by the teacher; in the case of a written assignment (such as research paper, dissertation) FA of the written draft may as well be live, but may prove more effective when written, or when oral but recorded in the form of an orally-annotated text (provides more time for reflection of both student and teacher)
  1. Selected FA methods and techniques aimed at critical thinking development

INTENSIFIED LECTURE – as a main approach to course teaching, remedies the disadvantages of one-way / monologue teaching, by creating occasions for students to actively engage with the taught topics, through questioning, interpretation or reflexive activities

An intensified lecture requires a phased approach:

  • evocation phase (updating the existing knowledge) – the teacher asks students to perform one of the following tasks: brainstorming a list of ideas which are already known in relation to the topic at stake; this may take the form of pair- or small group discussion on a specific question launched by the teacher; it may also require students to discover themselves meaningful connections between notions/concepts first introduced by the teacher and then share these to their peers;
  • sense-making phase(s) (communicating new knowledge) – delivering the course content, alternating the discourse with student reflexion and questioning moments; one such content-delivery sequence usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, students being thereafter allowed to confront their initial ideas with what has just been presented by the teacher, to answer a related question or to anticipate the subsequent part of the lecture etc. Such lecture sequencing is crucial in order to maintain student attention focused.
  • reflection phase (knowledge fixing and systematisation) – the teacher may ask students to: answer a concrete problem, prompting students to reflect on the application opportunity and practical relevance of the taught topic; (individually / in pairs / in small groups); write a 5-minute essay, either summarising one essential learning outcome of the lecture, formulating at least one question regarding what has been taught or making a short comment about the lecture’s course; these essays are then collected by the teacher who is thus in possession of highly relevant feed-back about the reception of his/her teaching; a selected number of essays may be discussed as an introduction to the following course/lecture/teaching activity.


This is a technique pertaining to the Intensified Lecture Method, meant to stimulate students in updating some of the previously acquired knowledge in connection with the topics about to be taught. It may prove an efficient attention catching, interest and active involvement stimulation technique.

The teacher chooses 4-5 key-terms out of the current course matter and writes them on the blackboard; individually or in pairs, students have to define the given terms, using their own words, while also establishing relationships between the 4-5 notions.

After the elaboration time – 5 to 10 minutes – the teacher asks some of the students to present their opinions to the class; these constitute a relevant feedback for the teacher, regarding the students’ current level of understanding the topic and can therefore become the starting point for the teacher to introduce the new content in a well-tuned manner.


The bunch is a form of collective brainstorming for concepts, ideas, relations; may take place verbally, in order to save time, but it is more efficient when written on the blackboard; helps focusing interactively on a newly-introduced topic and triggering student active participation in the development of the argumentation; provides the teacher with valuable information as to the current level of the students, regarding the topic at stake. Relevant phases:

  1. A key word or a topic about to be studied is written in the centre of the blackboard;
  2. Students brainstorm for all ideas, expressions or concepts they feel may be related to the main notion, drawing connecting lines;
  3. As new ideas are being brought up, different bunches may be configured, together with their relevant interconnections;
  4. The activity ends when all ideas have been expressed or when a time limit has been reached.


This is a critical-reading as well as critical lecture-attending method. Students are required to fill-in in the first five, respectively in the last five minutes of the teaching activity, a three-column table, wherein they must reflect on and become aware of:


First 5’

First 5’

Last 5’


What is already known?


What is the expected learning outcome / learning expectation / ambition?





What has just been learned?



The teacher then analyses student answers as a comprehensive survey of her/his students’ learning needs and is thus able to better tune next session’s teaching. At the same time, during the following lecture/course session and based on the received answers, the teacher is able to provide students with formative feedback (e.g. on recurrent misconceptions or, conversely, on original, commendable opinions).


The Five-Minute Essay is a FA technique, used in the last, reflection phase of an Intensified Lecture, helping students to sum-up their main learning outcomes and thus provide the teacher with formative feedback about the efficiency of the teaching session. The Essay requires the following phases:

Students are asked to: briefly describe one key aspect that has just been learned; formulate one question connected to the current topic which could deepen their knowledge thereof; make a suggestion regarding the teaching process, their expectations, possible directions that would enhance their active involvement with the discipline at stake.

The teacher may use the Essays as starting point for introducing the following teaching activity, or as a way to identify and subsequently gear the teaching as to address specific learning difficulties met by students.


The Gallery Tour is a FA method consisting in:

  1. Elaboration by students of a poster presenting the development and results of a group or individual project;
  2. Each student (group) presents their work in front of the class/peers, answering the possibly arising questions;
  3. Next to every poster, an empty page will be also visibly placed.
  4. The teacher asks the all student(s)/(groups) to visit each poster and note on the attached pages comments, suggestions and/or questions. An alternative summative strategy is to ask students to grade their fellow-students’ posters and then to establish a student top three.
  5. Finally, students return to their own work, read the received feedback and possibly answer the received questions in front of the class.

INSERT (Interactive Notation System to Effective Reading & Thinking)

The INSERT is an efficient method of self-assessment that can also be effectively used by teachers as FA method. The teacher asks students to attentively read a given didactic material and to annotate it using four specific marks, as follows:

Ö where the content of ideas confirms what is already known;
where the received information contradicts what is already known;
+ where the read information is new;
? where the text seems confusing, unclear, or where more information about certain aspects is needed.


The INSERT method fosters student active involvement with learning as well as monitors the degree of content appropriation, at the same time stimulating self-assessment and providing teachers with formative feedback.


The Learning Diary is a self-assessment method used quite frequently in the North American context. Systematic recording one’s learning steps, learning difficulties and learning achievements, one’s relevant learning aids, methods, bibliography, but also essential learning content, may prove a highly effective self-reflective exercise on the one hand and a highly useful formative feedback instrument for the teacher on the other hand.

A Learning Diary differs from the simple course notes, in that it is the result of an active reception of the course content, of an interaction between the given/taught content and the particular reception thereof of the learning subject. Instead of just noting down what is being taught, the Learning Diary embeds student’s own reflexions, extra research and personal leanings within the given subject. The Diary is thus a relevant method of developing one’s active learning skills.


Disclaimer: All content in this document reflects the author's view and the NA and the Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.