Laura Nicholson – May 2019

mind map of 6 teaching strategies:ethical considerations, debates, t chart and Venn diagrams, analyse this, surveys and polls, classify me

1. Ethical considerations

closeup picture of a dictionary showing a partial definition of ethics

Ethical considerations provide a platform for students to analyse the moral dilemmas of a situation by looking at various perspectives relating to how one could act in any given scenario. Generally, considerations will be based around,

  • The consequences of a given action – do the benefits outweigh the harm?
  • Virtue ethics – what would be the ‘right’ or ‘moral’  thing to do?
  • Rights and responsibilities of those involved– laws, codes of conduct etc.
  • The autonomy of those involved -should everyone have the right to make their own choice, regardless of the outcome?
  • Cultural, religious or spiritual considerations – should these take precedence regardless of the perceived benefit or harm that could result?

The above questions can be addressed in multiple ways in the classroom. A case study could be provided as a basis for class or group discussion. Or role play could be used whereby groups of students are each given a situation to act out to the class to then spark debate.

Guest speakers, news reports, or the use of flashcards with different scenarios on them can all help to generate ideas.


Enhance or transform with technology

Picture of a hand grasping a potato with the words half baked written on the potato

Quandary is a free tool and allows users to create a web-based action maze, which is basically like an interactive case study (Half-Baked Software Inc.,2009). It involves creating a set of scenarios with different decision points for each question, so each response will take the student to a different situation or outcome. Action mazes can help prompt students to consider additional elements like the legal implications or cultural beliefs as they work through. Quandary has quite a basic interface, which makes it more straightforward to set up, but its simplicity could be off-putting to some students.

Alternatively, there is the possibility to convert an online tool, which is usually used for a different purpose, to create action mazes. For example, there are various survey-based tools which also have the potential to create action mazes because the concept of being redirected to multiple different questions depending on the response, is a function many possess.

Action mazes have the potential to completely transform this learning activity by utilising them as a flipped or blended learning tool. The example below is one I made based on ethical considerations and allows users to include images, video, web links etc. to create a really interactive experience for the student.

Here is an extract from an action maze I created using typeform.


2. Debates

Image showing 3 people working together

Debates help students to develop critical thinking skills through their use of information to build a plausible argument to convince others of their opinion. Debate templates are available on Google Images to help with structure, and various planning guides are also available from a quick Google search.


Enhance with technology

debategraph logo

DebateGraph is a free tool which allows users to ‘visualise, question, and evaluate all of the considerations that any member thinks may be relevant to the topic being debated’ (Debategraph, ND).

DebateGraph enables students to facilitate group dialogue, clarify key arguments, discover clusters of interrelated topics, make decisions, tell non-linear stories, embed maps and, make or share posters (Debategraph, ND).


3. T-charts or Venn diagrams

picture of 3 linked circles

A T-Chart requires a student to list and examine two components of a topic, such as the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, facts versus opinions, or strengths and weaknesses.

Another way to analyse relationships between 2 or more factors is to use a Venn diagram which provides a visual way to organise information using overlapping circles; the area of overlap signifies the common elements between the factors. Using this method of analysis often enables abstract ideas to become more visible to the student.

More complex Venn diagrams can be created which involve using a cluster of overlapping circles. Venn diagrams could be used for analysing anything, for example distinguishing between the features of different organisms, comparing and contrasting various facilities in different areas, or calculating probabilities.


Enhance with technology

3 logos: creately, google,canva

While two-circle Venn diagrams are relatively straightforward to set up, more complex ones, involving clusters of circles, can soon become confused when new links between the elements are made, leading to a messy paper-based version with lots of crossing out.

Creately is an online diagram maker which allows the student to create over 40 different types of diagrams, including Venn diagrams. There is a free option available, providing you are willing for the Venn diagrams to be shared on their website.

Alternatively, Google Drawings enables students to create Venn diagrams for free and also has the option to share with class members, enabling collaboration with others.

Another alternative is Canva, which is a free tool enabling students to create Venn diagrams from ready-made colourful templates that can be easily customised by changing the font, colours or even adding images rather than text.


4. Analyse this:

silouette of a head with 2 cogs for the brain

To begin this activity the lecturer will write two interpretations of an event on the board, for example,

  • The National Health Service and Community Care Act (1990) led to structural and financial improvements for the NHS.
  • The National Health Service and Community Care Act (1990) did not result in structural and financial improvements for the NHS.

Then provide the students with two or three primary, or if unavailable use secondary, sources on the topic and instruct students to use these sources to determine which interpretation they believe to be true.

The National Archives (2018) has a range of useful worksheets at different levels to help students structure their analysis, giving prompts of things to consider. They have worksheets on analysing written documents, photographs, cartoons, posters, maps, artefacts, videos, sound recordings and artwork. 

Following the analysis, students can write 2-3 short paragraphs on the topic, using evidence from the sources to support their arguments.


Enhance with technology

3 logos: scholar, google docs and peergrade

To add more challenge, ask students to find one or two additional pieces of evidence for themselves.

Google Scholar provides research articles, or Google Docs could be useful for those who struggle more to find relevant research due to its ‘explore’ function. Once a blank document has been opened on Google Docs, start typing a sentence containing keywords linked to the topic, then press the ‘explore’ button at the bottom of the page. Google Docs will then display e-books and related research articles.

To ensure work is assessed, the free tool Peergrade could provide the opportunity for students to share their work with others to peer mark. With Peergrade the lecturer can upload a rubric for students to use for peer assessment and any feedback students give can be anonymous, with the lecturer having a complete overview of the feedback. Students can then engage with the feedback and determine if they wish to make any changes.  


5. Surveys and polls

3 logos: google forms, crowd signal and survey monkey

Students gather information on a topic to later analyse. Surveys can be used to collect data on peoples experiences, preferences, wants and needs or if students just want to ask one key question, they can conduct a poll (Zapier,2019).

The easiest way to create surveys or polls is with technology and Google Forms, Crowdsignal or SurveyMonkey are all free tools, which students can use to create and share their surveys or polls.

They all have a range of design options, for example with SurveyMonkey students can ask multiple choice questions, have questions with checkboxes, questions with image selections, dropdown lists, star ratings, matrix scales, sliders, ranking, or just open-ended comments (SurveyMonkey, 2019).


6. Classify me

A yellow magnifying glass

Classifying (or grouping) organisms based on similarities will teach students essential concepts about organisation and comparison skills.

Start by discussing the definition of a dichotomous key. Dichotomous keys are typically used for identifying plant and animal species based on their characteristics, similarities to other species, and their role in an ecosystem (BD Editors, 2019). However, dichotomous keys could be used to classify any range of objects which have a set of observable characteristics.

Whether using an already established dichotomous key or getting students to create one for themselves, the identification process should consist of a specific series of questions. When one question is answered, the key should then direct the student to consider what question to ask next, with each answer cutting down on the list of possible candidates remaining (BD Editors, 2019).

To ensure understanding of the task, the lecturer could start with a set of random objects such as kitchen utensils, encouraging students to consider the characteristics, similarity to other tools, its use etc. This will provide an opportunity to practice classifications before being introduced to main classification task.


Enhance with technology

3 logos:ispot, inaturalist, bioblitz

iSpot is a website developed by The Open University which involves users uploading images of wildlife to identify species, to learn more about the wildlife they have observed and to contribute to a database for scientific analysis (OpenLearn, 2018). Students could use this to help with their classification or to add new images to the iSpot website.

Similar collaborative classification sites include iNaturalist or BioBlitz. Alternatively, build in a different element to the activity and get students to appraise the effectiveness of collaboration tools like SnapshotSerengeti, which is a similar species identification tool, created to monitor conservation management strategies.



BD Editors. (2019). Dichotomous key. Available at: (last accessed 25/04/2019)

Debategraph. (ND). Ways to use DebateGraph. Available at: (last accessed 25/04/2019)

Half Baked Software.Inc. (2009). Quandary. Available at: (last accessed 21/04/2019)

OpenLearn. (2018). Using iSpot. Available at: (last accessed 25/04/2019)

SurveyMonkey. (2019). Question Types. Available at: (last accessed 28/04/2019)

Zapier. (2019). The Ultimate Guide to Forms and Surveys. Available at: (last accessed 28/04/2019)


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