The project “A study of academic development in universities through innovative approaches in teaching, assessment and feedback”, is funded over three years (2012-2015) by the Foundation for Science and Technology, reference PTDC/CPE-CED/117516/2010.

The project is coordinated by Professor Maria Helena T. Pedrosa-de-Jesus, Research Centre “Didactics and Technology in Education of Trainers” (CIDTFF), Department of Education, University of Aveiro, and is being developed in collaboration with five university teachers from Department of Biology.


This project is founded on work undertaken over the last decade in real, naturalistic, classroom settings, which has provided a greater understanding of the complexities of classroom interactions, the dynamics of student-generated questioning and inquiry-based learning. The diversity of approaches and styles of teaching and learning, the framing of alternative means of assessment, the complexities/intricacies of student feedback, as well as the design and use of e-learning support systems have emerged as promising lines of development and are now being explored through the present research project.
The main purpose of this current work is to develop knowledge about academic development through the design and testing of innovative practices in teaching, learning, assessment and feedback. The project aims at responding to current requirements of the university in teaching and learning, with the involvement and contribution of the research team and five university teachers of Biology. In essence, the project seeks to find realistic and affordable/accessible answers to questions related to teaching, learning, assessment and feedback, through classroom observation, the promotion of action research and academic reflection of the teachers involved.

Previous research was developed in the context of undergraduate chemistry (Pedrosa-de-Jesus & Moreira, 2009) and, more recently, within the context of undergraduate biology. The so called ‘Questions in Biology’ forum (Pedrosa-de-Jesus & Moreira, 2010), are examples of intentionally designed alternative teaching and learning environments for providing formative and constructive feedback and modes of assessment. These strategies are also aimed at developing students’ critical questioning skills and higher-order learning, as well as promoting and enhancing university teachers’ professional reflection. It is believed that is possible to advance further in naturalistic and classroom-based research by proposing innovative curriculum design based on, and embedded in, dialogic teaching and enhanced means of assessment and feedback, promoting academic development and reflection. These strategies are explored as models and professional tools for the academic development of university teachers. The “tasks” proposed clarify how it is intended to achieve these aims. In this respect, the project investigates ways to promote change in three ‘old centers’ (teacher-centered, textbook-centered, classroom-centered) to three new ones (student-centered, experience-centered and activity-centered), as suggested by Nicholas (2008).

In summary, the research aims at mapping and investigating curriculum development practices centered on learning preferences, teaching approaches, assessment and feedback modes, to improve performance. In addition, e-based support mechanisms will be designed to encourage dialogic teaching, student autonomy, means of assessment and improved forms of feedback to students. Each of these will be evaluated for effectiveness in practice so that course objectives, teaching and learning approaches and forms of assessment are coherently designed in terms of Biggs’ (2007) model of constructive alignment.


Nicholas, S.P. (2008). The development of basic education in Shanghai, China and its challenges ahead. In TH Seren & WL Megan (Eds). Education in China. Nova Science Publisher Inc: New York.
Biggs, J. (2007). Teaching for quality at University. (3rd Ed.) Open University Press: Philadelphia, USA. (360p)
Pedrosa-de-Jesus, M.H., Moreira, A.C. (2009). The role of students’ question in aligning teaching, learning and assessment: A case study from undergraduate sciences. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 34 (2), 193-208.
Pedrosa de Jesus, M.H. & Moreira, A.C. (2010). Exploring questioning styles of biology undergraduates using an e-learning forum. In H. Pedrosa-de-Jesus, C. Evans, Z. Charlesworth. & E. Cools (Eds.) Exploring Styles to enhance learning and teaching in diverse contexts – Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference of the European Learning Styles Information Network. Aveiro: University of Aveiro. ISBN: 978-972-789-312-6 (pp.342-348).

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