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Student Centred Learning



Transitionto Higher Education

Explore with ussome concepts that underpinCreative pedagogies





Created (2023) byDrew Gupwell &Sinead O'Hara

Co-Supervised byDr Linnea Soler &Dr Smita Odedra



Behaviourism looks at the observable actions taken by students to assess how effectively students are learning.18 At the core of the behaviourism approach is the belief that students learn best through reinforcement, both positive and negative (operant conditioning).21 This is achieved by giving students opportunities for feedback to allow them to determine if what they are doing is correct or incorrect via homework comments, test results, etc.

The major critique of behaviourism is that it fails to take into account the non-observable aspects of learning, such as an individual’s emotions and internal thought processes.18 The idea that the teacher is in complete control of the learning leads to a lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


Liberationism places more focus on the individual student, rather than the teacher.22 The approach suggests that by allowing students to take more responsibility for their own learning, for example allowing them to focus on areas that they find more challenging rather than everyone studying the same thing at the same time, leads to enhanced critical thinking skills and independence.

The biggest critique to liberationism is that the approach may lack structure.22

Liberationism rejects traditional behaviourism by arguing that teachers should be a guide for student learning, and that learning should be less focused on what you learn but rather the way that you learn it.23 Theory brought into the classroom setting by small group learning, student lead exercises, etc.

Social Constructivism

Social Constructivism recognises the importance of collaboration for effective learning (students chatting during lessons might not be a bad thing). The theory was built on the idea that students learn most effectively when talking through problems with each other to find solutions and therefore making the learning an external process rather than an internal one.23

Social constructivism is employed in a classroom setting via setting tasks to mixed ability small groups2 supervised by teachers, allowing the students with greater understanding to solidify their knowledge via explaining problems to students who have less understanding whilst building their communication skills and allowing those who don’t understand quite as much the chance to learn from their peers.24


Connectivism is shown in a classroom by teachers setting tasks where students are required to use the internet to reach solutions thus teaching students how to find information rather than just telling them the facts. Connectivism also focuses on learning through connecting with others to develop skills and and ideas that we might not have without other social input.19

Connectivism highlights how technology can be used to enhance learning and teaches students how to learn effectively in a digital world by teaching students how to best make use of technology to aid their learning.19

(Penny needs help figuring out a problem whilst Sheldon and Leonard are at Caltech so she makes use of technology to find a solution.)


(1)Maggie Wooll. 6 important critical thinking skills you should master. Better Up. https://www.betterup.com/blog/critical-thinking-skills (accessed 2023-10-14). (2)Cynthia J. Brame. Active Learning. Vanderbilt University. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/active-learning/ (accessed 2023-10-09). (3)Rogers, C. CONSTRUCTIVISM & STUDENT CENTERED LEARNING. (4). Canelas, D.; L. Hill, J.; Novicki, A. Cooperative Learning in Organic Chemistry Increases Student Assessment of Learning Gains in Key Transferable Skills. Chemistry Education Research and Practice 2017, 18 (3), 441–456. https://doi.org/10.1039/C7RP00014F. (5)Ronald, A, Beghetto. Creative Learning in Education. In The Palgrave Handbook of Positive Education; Springer Nature Switzerland AG. (6)Steve Burnage. Creative learning, creative teaching. SecEd. https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/content/best-practice/creative-learning-creative-teaching/ (accessed 2023-10-14). (7)Aleinikov, A. G. Creative Pedagogy. In Encyclopedia of Creativity, Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Carayannis, E. G., Ed.; Springer: New York, NY, 2013; pp 326–339. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3858-8_13. (8)A.M Pallas. Educational Transitions, Trajectories, and Pathways. In Handbook of the Life Course. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research; Springer: Boston, 2003. (9)Executive Function & Self-Regulation. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/executive-function/ (accessed 2023-10-09). (10)Shabalina, O.; Malliarakis, C.; Tomos, F.; Mozelius, P.; Balan, O.; Alimov, A. Game-Based Learning as a Catalyst for Creative Learning; 2016. (11)Meltzer, L. Executive Function in Education, Second Edition: From Theory to Practice; Guilford Publications, 2018. (12)Ambrose, S. A. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. (13)rury, N. Improving Transition to Higher Education by Developing Students’ Academic Self-Concept. 2023, 4 (14)Trevor Gale, S. P. Navigating Change: A Typology of Student Transition in Highereducation. In Studies in Higher Education; 2012; Vol. 39, pp 734–753.(15)O’Neill, G.; McMahon, T. STUDENT–CENTRED LEARNING: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR STUDENTS AND LECTURERS? (16)Casper, W. C. Teaching beyond the Topic Teaching Teamwork Skills in Higher Education. In Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice; 2017; Vol. 17. (17)Prada, E. D.; Mareque, M.; Pino-Juste, M. Teamwork Skills in Higher Education: Is University Training Contributing to Their Mastery? Psicologia, Reflexão e Crítica : revista semestral do Departamento de Psicologia da UFRGS 2022, 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41155-022-00207-1. (18)Ben Greenwood. What is Behaviourism and How to Use it in the Classroom? https://blog.teamsatchel.com/what-is-behaviourism-and-how-to-use-it-in-the-classroom (accessed 2023-10-09). (19)What Is Connectivism Learning Theory and How Can You Apply It in Learning and Development?. 360Learning. https://360learning.com/guide/learning-theories/connectivism-learning-theory/ (accessed 2023-10-09).

(20)Gail Belsky. What Is Executive Function?. Understood. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/what-is-executive-function (accessed 2023-10-09). (21)Kendra Cherry. Why Behaviorism Is One of Psychology’s Most Fascinating Branches. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/behavioral-psychology-4157183 (accessed 2023-10-09). (22)Ben Greenwood. What is Liberationist Pedagogy and How Can You Apply it in the Classroom? https://blog.teamsatchel.com/what-is-liberationist-pedagogy-and-how-can-you-apply-it (accessed 2023-10-14). (23)What Are the Different Pedagogical Approaches to Learning?. Learning Journals. https://learningjournals.co.uk/what-are-the-different-pedagogical-approaches-to-learning/ (accessed 2023-10-14). (24)Greenwood, B. Understanding Pedagogy - What is Social Constructivism? https://blog.teamsatchel.com/understanding-pedagogy-what-is-social-constructivism (accessed 2023-10-14). (25)Communication Skills | SkillsYouNeed. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/communication-skills.html (accessed 2023-10-14). (26)Sokhanvar, Z.; Salehi, K.; Sokhanvar, F. Advantages of Authentic Assessment for Improving the Learning Experience and Employability Skills of Higher Education Students: A Systematic Literature Review. Stud. Educ. Eval. 2021, 70, 101030. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2021.101030. (27) Morris, C.; Milton, E.; Goldstone, R. Case Study: Suggesting Choice: Inclusive Assessment Processes. High. Educ. Pedagog. 2019, 4 (1), 435–447. https://doi.org/10.1080/23752696.2019.1669479. (28) Poulos, A.; Mahony, M. J. Effectiveness of Feedback: The Students’ Perspective. Assess. Eval. High. Educ. 2008, 33 (2), 143–154. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930601127869. (29) Jonsson, A. Facilitating Productive Use of Feedback in Higher Education. Act. Learn. High. Educ. 2013, 14 (1), 63–76. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787412467125. (30) Gulikers, J.; Bastiaens, T.; Kirschner, P. Perceptions of Authentic Assessment Five Dimensions of Authenticity. 2023. (31) Rideout, C. A. Students’ Choices and Achievement in Large Undergraduate Classes Using a Novel Flexible Assessment Approach. Assess. Eval. High. Educ. 2018, 43 (1), 68–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1294144. (32) Dawson, P.; Henderson, M.; Mahoney, P.; Phillips, M.; Ryan, T.; Boud, D.; Molloy, E. What Makes for Effective Feedback: Staff and Student Perspectives. Assess. Eval. High. Educ. 2019, 44 (1), 25–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1467877. (33) Lewis, S.; Shaw, J.; Freeman, K. Creative Exercises in General Chemistry: A Student-Centered Assessment. J. Coll. Sci. Teach. 2010, 40 (1), 48–53.





One should engage in the act of clicking upon the above stars to gather further information about each respective approach.

Creative Pedagogy

In order to define creative pedagogy, first we need to know what regular pedagogy is. Pedagogy is defined as the method and practice of teaching.12 There are 4 main pedagogical approaches: Behaviourism, Liberationism, Social Constructivism, and Connectivism.Therefore, creative pedagogy is the method and practice of creative teaching which places an emphasis on the importance of creativity in successful learning.7


At it's most basic level, communicating is the act of conveying information from one place to another25, whether it's in a traditional form such as a written piece or an oral presentation or a more creative form such as a sock puppet show.

Communication skills are developed in university via written assignments and presentations but also in a less direct way by talking through ideas with peers and lecturers and by group study sessions.

Employers value strong communication skills as being part of a company involves talking to a diverse range of people and being able to get ideas accross clearly and concisely is vital to company success.25

Critical Thinking

At university, these skills are built on in the first few years at lower stakes allowing students to recieve feedback and evaluate their study stragegies to prepare them for higher stake problem solving and research tasks in their final years and beyond.

Critical thinking is the ability to come to a clear and rational conclusion by interpreting, analysing and evaluating facts.1 Critical thinking skills are essential to success at university. These skills are neccessary in problem-solving tasks, research tasks, decision-making, prioritisation, and sparking curiosity.

Creative Assignment

In creative assignment, students take an active role in deciding what they will be assessed on and how. Students can present their knowledge in the way they want, which encourages them to use assessment to support their learning. This assignment style encourages student centred learning because it focuses on the student and their needs. 33

Meaningful Feedback

The challenge for instructors is to give personal feedback to each student while maintaining a manageable workload. Meanwhile, the student has to be receptive to this feedback and see it as an opportunity for learning and improvement.28, 32

Feedback becomes a great tool for learning when it is meaningful, specific and individual to the student. However, the meaningfulness of this feedback depends both on the instructor and the student.

Transferable Skills

When studying for a degree at university, its expected that you will leave with a vast knowledge and skill set relevant to your course (hard skills), however, core skills gained at university, regardless of subject studied, can better equip students as they leave higher education go into whichever career they may choose.4 ,16

These core skills are known as transferable skills (or soft skills). Some key transerable skills are highlighted in the surrounding hexagons.


The ability to work collectively in a group to achieve a shared goal is skill that is highly valued amongst potential employers and is a skill that is strengthened at university.17 Through working with others to solve a problem in tutorials to working collaboratively on group projects, along with participating in team societies, there are numerous oppertunities at university to work on team work skills . Working successfully as part of a team involves active listening to others ideas and opinions, being reliable in meetings and for deadlines, taking accountability for your part, thinking creatively, having good leadership skills if appropriate and so many more skills, all of which are useful to have when applying to jobs outside of university.

Creative learning is learning using creative methods to build knowledge and skills rather than simply memorising facts.5 Rather than teachers setting specific tasks on how they would like students to learn a particular course, creative learning practices employ creative methods to guide students through the learning process.5,10, These are including but not limited to:

Creative Learning

The only real requirements of creative learning practices are that they are both original and useful.5

  • Gamification
  • Project-based learning
  • Inquiry-based learning

Creative learning is very closly linked to constructivim3, 15(described in the creative pedagogy hexagon) in that a constructivist learning environment is essential to take learners on a stimulating and meaningful learning journey.

Creative learning better equips students to leave higher education and face the modern world with confidence in their own ability and knowledge and the skills to tackle real world problems creatively.5, 6

Adding game-like elements to the learning process.

Active learning where students conduct their own research on the subject and ask questions.

Active learning involving students working in small groups to solve problems.

Mental Flexibility

Mental flexibility is the part that allows us to adapt to new environments and change the way we go about tasks if necessary9, this is important in the transition to university life as it's a new environment and our old study skills might now work anymore!

Working Memory

Working memory is like our mental notebooks.9 It allows us to remember tasks ranging from remembering to grab milk at the shop from remembering the steps to solve a chemistry problem!

Timely feedback can give students the opportunity for faster growth and improvement. If feedback is given in a timely manner, students can use the advice they receive in time to improve for their next assignment.28

Timely Feedback


Three key aspects of effective assessment are inclusivity, authenticity and flexibility. By involving these features in assessment, students are able to take more responsibility for their learning, therefore developing transferable skills and graduate attributes.

Effective assessment should enhance student learning and allow learners to engage with the material they are being assessed on. Effective assessment gives students the opportunity to receive meaningful feedback while also meeting the diverse needs of the students. The way students are assessed is important because this influences the learning process and how information is studied and retained.26, 27, 31

Time Management

For many students, the first time that they need to build their own time management skills is at university. Unlike in secondary education where time management is closly monitored by teachers, success at a higher education level relies more on students taking responsibility for how they spend their time. Students need to learn to prioritise tasks and how to work efficiently in order to manage the heavy workload that completing a degree entails. These skills are sought after in any workplace.

Transition to higher education describes the journey that students take from leaving one form of education to starting at university. There are 3 main approaches to a successful transition:14

Transition to Higher Education

  • Induction
  • Development
  • Becoming

More information on each component can be found by clicking on each of the surrounding stars.

Universities can support the transition to higher education by hosting orientation sessions, academic advisor meetings, informal sessions to meet academic staff, guided study sessions and highlighting non-academic support available to new students.13

We value giving our students a voice and opportunities to share their work, so we are delighted to share their output with you on the National Teaching Repository. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

This resource was created by two Chemistry undergraduate students at the University of Glasgow, Drew Gupwell and Sinead O'Hara.We (Smita Odedra & Linnea Soler) are both Senior Lecturers (Learning, Teaching & Scholarship track) in the School of Chemistry. We co-supervise final year research projects which span a wide range of topics across discipline-based Chemistry Education research and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. For several years, we have been using creative assignments to help ground our students in the literature around their projects. .


Dr Linnea Soler

This year we asked our two students to co-create this educational resource. We asked them to explore new topics as a team and to synthesise their findings in a novel and accessible way. Through this approach of allowing and encouraging creative freedom, we hoped to give them both a supportive and a fun introduction to the Scholarship process, building in opportunities for peer support and developing transferable skills in teamworking, communication and research skills.

Dr Smita Odedra

With inclusive assessment, all students are given equal opportunities to learn through assessment and are treated equally during the feedback and assessment process. The aim is to reduce the attainment gap between different groups of students by ensuring all students have equal opportunities.27

Inclusive Assessment


Before we define creative learning, it's important to define what learning is.Learning can be defined as a mental journey leading to change via experiences, in a way that opens the path to improved performance and ability for further learning.12

Flexible Assessment

Flexible assessment is an assessment style that enables student choice, for example, in method, format or topic. It stresses the role of assessment for learning and can encourage students to engage more with their learning. Students can choose how they would like to show what they have learned.31

Development Approach

The development approach to transition to higher education focuses on the entire lifestyle shift that accompanies starting university, more specifically students finding who they are as a university student.13 Under this approach, the transition is thought of as a linear process. This approach is often thought of as like a "trajectory" when compared to the induction approach in that..'A trajectory is an attribute of an individual, whereas a pathway is an attribute of a social system' (Pallas, 2003)8

Induction Approach

The induction approach focuses on ways in which a higher education institute can prepare new students to meet the institutes expectations. This can be done via welcome talks and subject specific inductions.13 This approach views the transition as a linear process, and is sometimes refered to as similar to a "pathway" in that..‘pathways are well-travelled sequences of transitions that are shaped by cultural and structural forces' (Pallas, 2003)8

Authentic assessment aims to put assessment in a real-world context. By being assessed on tasks that are relevant to their field of study, students can develop skills and knowledge that are useful in working life. This allows the assessment process to become more interesting, which creates a positive impact on students’ learning and motivation.26

Authentic Assessment

Becoming Approach

The becoming approach in many ways goes against the induction and development aproach to the transition to higher education in that it attempts to acknowledge individuality and the constant changes in students lives and thus a less structured approach to the transition is required and therefore this approach is far more student centred.14


Effective feedback focuses on the use of feedback to promote learning and recognises that feedback can be an important means to improve the quality of students’ work. In order to ensure that feedback is effective for the students, it must be meaningful and timely.28, 32

At the most basic level, executive function skills are the mental processes that allow us to plan activities, pay attention, take in instructions, and multitask.11

Executive Function

Executive function skills are categorised under 3 main headings; working memory, mental flexibility, and inhibitory-control9-all of which are highly connected, and that connection is key to successfully gaining and applying executive function skills in a higher education setting.

We're not born with executive function skills, they're developed through childhood and into early adulthood and they play a crucial part in effective learning.20 Those of us with well-developed executive function skills are far better equiped to deal with the compex academic demands of higher education, as well as the change in routine and social challenges that the transition to university brings.

Student Centred Learning

Student-centred learning (SCL) is an approach to learning where the student has greater freedom with which topics they choose to study and in which manner they learn them15. Student-centred learning promotes self-directed study and individuality. This approach allows for better engagement with learning and a deeper understanding of topics as the topics covered are more meaningful to the learner15.

Creative learning and creative assessment are 2 key elements to student centred learning.


The inhibitory-control part of executive function is the part that allows us to resist temptations and make smart choices9-from not eating an entire cake in one sitting to actually going into university for those 9am lectures.