Learning and teaching terminology

Key terms used around learning, teaching and assessment methods across the University.

A-Z of learning and teaching terminology



Assessment means the methods the University uses to evaluate student learning. The assessment method may be ‘controlled’ (an exam, presentation), or a method where you do something in your own time (eg coursework). See assessments.


Assignments are student work which are marked and contribute towards the achievement of the module. Assignments usually mean work which is coursework, although an examination may also be expected as part of the module assessment.

Assignments can be undertaken through a range of methods: essay, laboratory report, poster, oral presentation, research report, dissertation, blog, final project, artwork and portfolio.


When you enrol on a module you are ‘attempting’ it. An attempt is normally structured to allow you a first ‘sit’ at all your assessments, followed by a ‘resit’ if you need it. If you are on your first attempt, this shows you have enrolled on it for the first time. If you are on your second attempt, this shows you have enrolled on it for the second time, and so on.


Case study(ies)

A case study is a detailed account of a situation, event, decision or problem. Case studies are often used for analysis and problem solving, as a means of relating theoretical knowledge to real circumstances.


A ‘cohort’ is a student group to which you are assigned to facilitate your learning, usually linked to your level of study. 

Computer-based activities

Computer-based activities may include stand-alone computer learning or activities that reinforce and add to what you have been taught in sessions.

Technology-enhanced learning is embedded throughout all courses and activities and can include tutorials, simulations, tests and web-based research. It may also involve podcasts, blogs and video, as well as using online materials/resources/e-books.


Coursework is a piece of work that you would normally complete outside of the class room, for example an essay, a poster or a piece of group work. You should check your module information for exact details of the coursework you are required to submit.

Coursework is undertaken throughout the delivery of the module and can be formative or summative. See coursework.



Demonstrations are often a practical exhibition or explanation of how something works/is performed, for example, in the laboratory or studio.


A dissertation is an assignment where the student undertakes independent research on a topic with specific support by a tutor.

Usually the dissertation is undertaken in the final year of undergraduate and master's courses, and results in a thesis being written.


E-learning/online learning

E-learning may include a range of technology-based activities which can be completed on or off-site and may include video lectures and tutorials, podcasts and the use of library e-resources. In some cases, the whole module or course may be delivered through online learning or certain subject areas within a module.


An essay is a written piece of work which may analyse, critique, review and/or discuss a specific topic. The arguments within the essay will be informed by texts, peer-reviewed sources and appropriate e-resources.


An examination or exam is a piece of work produced under controlled conditions. It is usually scheduled for a specific time and date, and usually has a time limit. Exams can include essays, performances or other forms of work. You should check your module information for exact details of the exam.

Exams are usually summative assessments which may include multiple choice questions, short answers, computer-based questions and essays. See exams.


Face-to-face learning

Face-to-face learning involves interaction with/between students and staff, including lecturers, technicians, guest lecturers and subject specialists or students. It can include workshops, seminars and tutorials in a classroom, or as synchronous online tutorials.

Fieldwork exercises

Fieldwork exercises often refer to investigations carried out away from the normal place of study and involve monitoring/assessing human impact from a societal, psychological or environmental perspective.

Final project

Final projects are usually independent research projects undertaken in the final year of undergraduate or postgraduate study. A supervisor will provide guidance and technical experts may help in practical work skills.

The project usually results in a report or thesis/dissertation being generated.


Independent study/self-guided study

Independent learning is an important aspect of developing knowledge and understanding by exploring ideas, reading and thinking critically. Study is supported through a range of resources; e-resources, digital resources and texts, and builds upon the work undertaken in scheduled contact time.

An independent study can also be a term which means a project, assignment or dissertation.


Laboratory work

Laboratory work can include both taught practical sessions within specialist space and work carried out independently by students within the laboratory, eg research projects.

Learning outcomes

Statements of what a learner is expected to know, understand or demonstrate after completing a process of learning.


A lecture is a timetabled session where a subject specialist will deliver and discuss subject content, and identify further areas of wider learning through the Blackboard VLE, e-resources and library. Lecture content will be appropriate for the subject and level of module, and may provide a contextual background to tutorial work or practical sessions, be delivered by a practitioner, or be research-led.


A lectorial is a learning and teaching session that combines elements of both a formal lecture (eg for delivery of content) and an interactive seminar (eg for student group activities, discussion, etc).



The smallest sub-division of teaching and assessment for which credit is awarded.

Module credit

Credits are gained when modules are successfully completed and modules are normally given values between 5 and 60 credits. The number of credits assigned to a module is based on learning hours, i.e. the number of hours which it is expected that you will spend, on average, achieving the learning outcomes. 1 credit usually equals 10 notional hours of study.


Online study

This can refer to the availability of resources online for you to use as part of your programme of study, eg e-resources from the library.



A portfolio is an assignment which is usually a collection of related work undertaken over a length of time which may include reflective written work, professional body requirements eg competency achievement/sign off or reviews of related topics. 

Portfolios can form part of personal development activities through an award and can be paper or online based.

Practical sessions/work

Practical sessions or work may take place in a laboratory, studio or classroom, and can be a taught session or a session where students work independently or collaboratively. It may involve data handling and problem solving. Practical sessions may involve observations by the tutor, eg in Education where students may have a practical teaching session.

Presentations (individual or group)

A presentation is a way of setting out and explaining your ideas to others in a formal and succinct manner. Presentations can be delivered either orally or as a poster, and may be done individually or as part of a group.

Primary source exercise

A primary source is a first-hand testimony or evidence, thus exercises using primary sources would analyse and evaluate the sources for usefulness.

Professional practice report

Professional practice is undertaken mainly within vocational awards and may take place in a practice setting eg within a hospital or school.

Mentors within practice will support the achievement of specific skills and tasks, and so the undertaking of these can be written up in a report as an assignment.


Your programme of study is made up of different modules at different levels which lead to an award.

Project work (individual or group)

Project work can involve sustained, in-depth exploration of a question or problem. Project work can be individual or collaborative, and is carried out independently with support from a tutor or supervisor.


Reflective diary

Reflection enhances deeper learning and a reflective diary collates a student’s personal learning journey through feelings, thoughts and lessons learnt, sometimes resulting in change of practice.


If you do not pass a module at the first sit, you will normally get an automatic resit. In the resit, you will be assessed in the component(s) you did not pass at the first sit.


A retake is when you study a whole module for a second or further time because you have taken it previously but have not passed it yet. If you have a retake, unless you have previously been capped at 40% for undergraduate or 50% for postgraduate programmes, this will not be capped. You will not be able to retake a module if you’ve already passed it.



A seminar is a group of limited size which focuses on an in-depth discussion of a particular topic. Seminars are interactive and usually require some preparation in advance. The format of seminars may vary according to programme of study.


A sit is your first attempt at the assessments in a module.

Site visits

A site visit is usually associated with fieldwork activities or research away from campus, and may include a range of locations and activities with external agencies, eg industrial partners.

Student led

Student-led activities may include directed work which is completed independently or collaboratively, and is supported by a tutor.

Studio sessions

Studio sessions are integral to some programmes of study, and often require students to complete self-directed practical work using specialist resources and learning spaces supported by tutors and technicians.


Surveys can be undertaken as an assignment or as part of a report or project. Surveys can involve environmental fieldwork or be part of a societal or psychology research work. Surveys require the gathering of a range of data, either quantitative or qualitative.

Syndicate work

Syndicate learning involves small semi-independent groups working on a joint assignment with tutor support.


Tutorials (one-to-one or group)

The format of tutorials may vary according to the programme of study. The term may be used to refer to scheduled small group sessions such as seminars or workshops. Tutorials provide an opportunity for discussion/explanation/monitoring and academic development. These are interactive and can be via video or telephone as well as face-to-face.

Tutor led

A tutor-led session is a class, practical or lecture where the tutor introduces/discusses a topic and provides a major input in the session.



A workshop is an interactive session where a group work intensively on a topic or project to develop knowledge and/or skills, plan activities, and to discuss key themes and issues. Learning is achieved through participation and collaboration.

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