Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Technology, and the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Education

I first became aware of Chickering and Gamson's 'Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education' about 6 years ago (even though it was published in 1987), and it's often referenced in academic research. The principles are really common sense, but can provide some key aims/objectives for academic staff in developing an effective educational experience for students. The principles are as follows;
  1. Encourages contacts between students and faculty
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Uses active learning techniques. (a.k.a. "Encourages active learning")
  4. Gives prompt feedback
  5. Emphasises time on task
  6. Communicates high expectations
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning
I always find it amazing that some of the really pioneering work that inspire education(alists) today, were actually researched/published a long time ago. I was 5 when these principles were published!

Anyway, later, Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) applied the use of technology to support/aid the original principles, with suggestions like asynchronous discussion to encourage contact between students and faculty. But.... I wonder how, with the more recent burst of the social web, that we can use technology to support the 7 principles today. Here's some brief ideas that are really targeting many of the academics I support at MMU (rather than the expert innovators);

1 Encourages contacts between students and faculty

Moving beyond the basics of email discussed by Chickering and Ehrmann, today we have a range of other means, such as Social Media (Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn). Commentators (Hall 2009) have long been discussing how students arrive at University and have (or develop) their own Personal Learning Environments consisting of tools like Facebook and Twitter, and further research suggests that students are already using these tools to discuss aspects of their education (Junco, et al, 2011).

Further to this, students can feel greater contact with Faculty through the provision of bespoke audio and video recordings, as they can see/hear their tutors ( Lee, Mcloughlin and Chan, 2007; Stewart & Doolan, 2008; Middleton, 2009)

2 Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students

Again, the possibilities of the web enable learners to not only cooperate through the likes of forums, or again social media, but also through collaborative tools like Google Docs or Skydrive. Then, there are tools like PBWorks (wiki) that can be great for supporting collaboration.

3 Uses active learning techniques

It may not be the most innovative thing, but I love the activity of blogging. Not just to be participating in a growing craze on the web, but because it enforces a reflective approach upon the author. And reflection, is a key skill in active learning! Obviously I use blogger, but many of my students have signed up to Wordpress as well, and they are seeing some of the benefits I find.
As devices have become more portable, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement can work well for departments without a wealth of resources available to them. For example, I encouraged students to bring their own laptops/tablets to class for a breakout activity to access and reflect on specific content on the web, then summarise for the rest of the class.

4 Gives prompt feedback

Many of the VLEs available today enable tutors to develop quizzes, with tailored feedback that students receive as soon as they complete the quiz. For example at MMU, Moodle allows tailored feedback for each answer to each question.  It's also possible to provide further feedback based on overall grade boundaries. The possibilities here are huuuggee.

5 Emphasises time on task

The developments in connectivity really makes the web available right in the palm of the learner. Literally. When we use tools like Twitter or Facebook, we can engage students in academic discussions when they're on the train, during their break in work, or even when they're eating their tea! Further, mobile friendly VLEs enable learners to access a whole range of course-related information/activities, anyplace, anytime. I can't wait for MMU to launch the mobile friendly Moodle next year!

6 Communicates high expectations

Engaging in some of the activities discussed above, we are promoting a positive working ethos amongst our students. Whether that's by communicating with students out-of-hours, or by providing things like assignment details in a short video. A lot of the time, when we make an effort, so do our students.

7 Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Multimedia learning can not only support different ways of learning, it can build upon the Dual Channel Theory (Mayer & Gallini, 1990) of information processing by combining complimentary verbal and visual information (think VARK spectrum) to overcome/avoid cognitive overload and cater for different learning styles.

Perhaps the idea of the 'student as producer' takes this a step further, and even reinforces the high expectations mentioned previously? What about innovative uses of Second Life for students to develop fashion shows?

These are just some brief thoughts on technology and the seven principles. Do you have any particularly innovative approaches/experience to tackling any of the 7 principles? Get involved in the comments...


Chickering. A, & Gamson. Z (1987) Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. American Association of Higher Education Bulletin vol.39 no.7 pp.3-7

Chickering. A & Ehrmann. S (1996)  Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 49 (2), 3-6. Available online at:

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2011). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3-8. Elsevier Inc.

Mayer, R. E., & Gallini, J. K. (1990). When is an illustration worth ten thousand words? Journal of Educational Psychology82(4), 715–726.

Hall, R. (2009). Towards a Fusion of Formal and Informal Learning Environments : the Impact of the Read / Write Web. Learning, 7(1), 29-40

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132.

Lee, M, Mcloughlin. C,  and Chan. A (2007) Knowledge Creation processes of students as producers of audio learning objects. In Beyond Control: Learning technology for the social network generation. Research proceedings of the 14th Association for Learning Technology Conference

Middleton, A (2009) Beyond Podcasting: creative approaches to designing educational audio. ALT-J, Vol 17:2, pp 143-155 Stewart, W. and Doolan, M.A (2008) Listen to this: enhancing the learner experience through the use of audio within next generation technologies. Paper presented at the Higher Education Academy’s fourth Annual Conference, July 1-3 at the Harrogate International Centre.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Engineering course is one of the most excellent choices for students from science background, in conditions of scope as well as bright career. It is a vast field that put forward numerous streams and specialty choices. Thanks for sharing a nice information.
    Colleges in India

  2. Encouraging contacts is probably the most important when I was having some issues with my class subject. Providing prompt feedback and messaging them through a little web forum. It didn't matter which school laptop I used as long as I was able to connect to the University. Principle #7 is also important.