Macro and micro patterns
A way of visualising the structure of courses and the learning activities within them.
The arrangement of activities across the weeks of a course can often be seen to exhibit a 'macro pattern'. Conceptualising a course as a macro pattern aims to serve as a bridge between understanding the existing course structure and planning its redesign to accommodate the move to hybrid education.
The archetypes below represent common simplified macro patterns:
Highly structured pattern with the smallest quotient of self-directed study time.
Typical of courses in many disciplines and levels, requiring a mixture of teaching activities to cover theory and practice.
Labs includes Workshops and individual Studio Work; in this macro pattern they could alternatively be Computer Labs, or practice in placement.
Highly structured pattern with the smallest quotient of self-directed study time. Typical of courses in many disciplines and levels, requiring a mixture of teaching activities to cover theory and practice.
Labs include Workshops and individual Studio Work; in this macro pattern, they could alternatively be Computer Labs or practice in placement.
Course facilitates teaching through a combination of Lectures and a substantial Group Project.
Typical of courses in many disciplines and levels, especially where developing group work skills need to be supported.
Some of the structure is imposed by the macro pattern but the structure around the Group Project could be more or less formal.
This pattern relies entirely on Lectures and has the highest quotient of individual study.
Typical of courses in many disciplines at any, requiring students to develop their own practice.
There is the potentially the greatest need here for Individual Study to be guided/structured since it is the most substantial part of the course.
Highly structured pattern with the smaller quotient of self-directed study time.
Typical of courses in many practical disciplines and many levels, requiring a mixture of teaching activities to cover theory and practice.
Studio work could be individual or group; this could be Workshops. Field work is integral to the process of developing practice; it could involve organised group site visits or individual student-led activity.
This pattern relies entirely on an individual project. Typical of courses in many disciplines at an advanced level, requiring students to undertake a research project, guided but substantially under their own direction.
Structure is negotiated between the student and their supervisor, usually through regular meetings.
This pattern relies entirely on a placement.
Structure may be largely reliant on the type of placement and the provider. Scheduled meetings between the student and a representative of the University can be used to keep progress on track.
Micro patterns are examples of how the learning activities which make up the macro pattern could be rethought, in order to facilitate hybrid learning. These can be used as written or as a way to imagine your own micro patterns.
Lecture micro pattern 1
Using a live or pre-recorded video presentation (whole or in segments); students use this to investigate definitions of key words and concepts, and write definitions; student collaborate to decide questions to ask after the presentation; MCQs used to self-assess understanding.
Lecture micro pattern 2
Using a live or pre-recorded video presentation (whole or in segments); students use this to explore creating a summary in a format of their choosing (that can be used for revision); following a discussion during which they can ask questions, students improve their summary.
Lecture micro pattern 3
Using a pre-recorded video presentation (whole or in segments); students use new information to critique popular work on the topic (Wikipedia entries, newspaper articles etc); they meet to discuss the issues with any disparity.
Seminar/Tutorial micro pattern 1
Session to focus on guiding an individual’s practice (could be 1-2-1 or small group work); student uses this to focus how they use their individual study time.
Seminar/Tutorial micro pattern 2
Session to focus on working through (open/closed) questions; student uses this to self-assess their understanding of the subject, particularly of previous lecture material; could be practice towards summative assessment.
Seminar/Tutorial micro pattern 3
Session to focus on working through MCQs; acts as a formative assessment and guides feedback to students; students vote on what they want to discuss afterwards; students use this feedback to plan necessary revision.
Seminar/Tutorial micro pattern 4
Session to focus on editing popular writing on the topic; acts as a self-assessment on their understanding of the topic and ability to explain it in simple terms; they collaborate to decide work that needs to be done, subdivide the work, and carry it out.
Computer Lab micro pattern 1
Session to focus on working through (open/closed) questions; student uses this to practice applying what was covered theoretically in previous lecture material; peer support to complete work (could be students from a year above); could be practice towards summative assessment.
Labs, Workshops & Studios micro pattern 1
Session built around a (live or recorded) demonstration (e.g. of a technique, use of a piece of equipment); students summarise what they have learnt to determine if they have understood the demonstration and prompt further questions; MCQs are used to help determine if students have understood; feedback can be used to help with misunderstandings.
Labs, Workshops & Studios micro pattern 2
Small group/pair work on lab (simulation); support from technical staff (or peers from a higher year); can be used to reflect on simulations compared with physical experiments.
Studio Group Work micro pattern 1
Substantial group project culminating in a presentation of their group work; student organise their own project plan and how they will manage themselves as a group; an interim presentation gives them the opportunity to both give and receive feedback (a part of studio practice) and use it to make any necessary improvements before they complete their work; after final feedback, students are encouraged to reflect on the experience.
Skills & Professional Practice micro pattern 1
Students create their own personal plan and curate a corresponding collection of training sessions (and other resources) to enable them to compile a portfolio of evidence of their capability (against a professional framework); they can then use this to develop a resource for seeking employment, professional body membership etc.
Field Trips micro pattern 1
Session on a group field trip; students work together to plan the visit, collect information, and record what they learnt; individually, they reflect on how they can use this experience.
Project work & supervision micro pattern 1
Substantial individual project based on primary research/data analysis; supported with skills sessions and individual supervision.
Examples in practice
Here are examples of this work used in the University:
Micropatterns, podcasts, and taking a pause
Course patterns | School of Informatics | University of Edinburgh
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