Top Ten Teaching Matters Posts of 2020

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It is difficult to find words to describe 2020. It has been a unique and challenging year to say the least. As we’re still processing the lessons learned during this monumental year and with the pandemic bringing on new challenges in 2021, let’s pause on some of 2020’s most read blog posts. This year was a test in resilience.  We adapted to the evolving situation with Spotlight series aimed at helping colleagues and students work through our changing teaching & learning environments and asking deeper questions around social justice and anti-discrimination in the curriculum.

As editors of the blog, we were inspired by the dedication of colleagues and students in contributing to this collective “brainstorm” on how to best meet these new pedagogical challenges. The dedication seeps through the lines of the many blog posts published this year, which testifies to Teaching Matters’ breadth and relevance in contributing to University-wide conversations.

So let’s look back at this year’s top 10 most read posts. To provide a more focused overview of the thoughts and ideas generated this year, I purposefully only selected posts published in 2020 and did not include posts from earlier years (if you’re interested in revisiting them, please have a look at Jenny Scoles’ post from last January).

Top 10 Posts of 2020

  1. Pedagogy and Technology from a Postdigital Perspective by Tim Fawns (published August 19th 2020) by Tim Fawns (published August 19th 2020).

At the top of the list stands Tim Fawns’ post on the imbrication between technology and pedagogy. He makes the case for perceiving technology as an intrinsic component of pedagogy, meaning that more attention should be paid to how we orchestrate technology rather than how we merely use it.

2. Spotlight on Alternative Assessment Methods: Alternatives to exams by Tim Fawns and Jen Ross ( (June 3rd 2020)

In March 2020, as the country and the world went into full lockdown, we launched two Spotlight series on Remote Teaching and Alternative Assessment Methods. In a post for the latter, Tim Fawns and Jen Ross discussed several design characteristics that can provide challenging and meaningful ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding at a distance.

3. Spotlight on Remote Teaching: Top 10 tips for teaching online by Tim Fawns, Derek Jones, Gill Aitkens (March 26th 2020)

In this post for the “Spotlight on Remote Teaching” the authors shared ten grounded tips for delivering lectures online, with advice ranging from keeping it simple to modelling and setting the communication pace. This was one of the first posts of the series just one week after the University shifted to remote learning.

4. Mentoring for the Edinburgh Teaching Award by Somia Imran (July 23rd 2020)

Somia Imran’s post on her experience being both a mentor and mentee for the Edinburgh Teaching Award ranks in fourth place. She provides insights into the subtle yet key differences between a mentor, tutor and adviser and reflects on the meaning of such roles.

5. Top 10 most read posts of 2019 by Jenny Scoles from January 6th 2020

Unsurprisingly, Jenny Scoles’ post from one year ago ranks 5th. To learn more about the blog’s most popular posts since it’s foundation in 2016, this is a great dig into the archive!

6. Spotlight on Remote Teaching: Five approaches to help students manage information during COVID-19 by Michael Seery and Chris Mowat (April 6th 2020)

This post by Michael Seery and Chris Mowat is a wonderful example of how they helped students mitigate the large and overwhelming flow of information coming in during the first few months of the pandemic at the School of Chemistry. They walk us through their process with honesty and humility.

7. Spotlight on Remote Teaching and Alternative Assessment Methods by Colm Harmon (March 18th 2020)

In 7th place, Professor Colm Harmon’s post introduces the launch of the two Spotlight series on “Remote Learning” and “Alternative Assessment Methods”. In total, we published 23 posts for the Spotlight on Remote Teaching and ten for the Alternative Assessment Methods.

8.  Spotlight on remote teaching: Benefits and challenges of blended learning by Yi-Shan Tsai (April 21st 2020)

In this 8th post, Yi-Shan Tsai, Research Associate at the School of Informatics, talks about the benefits and challenges of blended learning and the most effective ways to implement such an approach.

9. Spotlight on Alternative Assessment Methods: Remote exam marking – Holding on to the philosophy of paper by Tim Drysdale  (April 15th 2020)

In 9th place, Tim Drysdale from the School of Engineering shares an innovative online tool he developed to mark student papers in the remote teaching era. He demonstrates how PDF files, when used correctly, can share the same virtues of the paper essay…

10. Podcast: Place Based Education a conversation between Heidi Smith and Robbie Nicol on December 13th 2020

Finally, the first episode of Teaching Matters’ podcast relaunch made it to the Top 10 list. This is the first episode of a four-part series on creative approaches to practicals and field work in online and hybrid spaces featuring Heidi Smith and Robbie Nicol from the Moray House School of Education and Sport. In this fifteen-minute episode, they discuss the critical role of place-based education in hybrid teaching and learning and its capacity to support health and wellbeing.

Other highlights from 2020:

In 2020, we also endeavoured to better amplify the student voice. We did so by writing to the student panel regularly when soliciting posts and publishing announcements in the e-newsletter. We also ran an entirely student-produced series in September 2020 that featured original artworks, writings and videos created by students who shared their experience with remote learning. The collection of essays and illustrations provides a genuine and personal look into the student experience.

Additionally, we launched an ongoing “Spotlight series on the Voices of Movers and Shakers”. It features writings by scholars from the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program: a full scholarship and leadership training programme for African students. In the blog posts, the writers reflect on the process of becoming changemakers and the intersections between leadership, activism, and creativity. I highly recommend having a look through the series.

Stay tuned for this year’s new series and themes. Please write to us if you would like to contribute to the blog or if you have any suggestions at

Happy New Year 2021!

Joséphine Foucher

Joséphine is doing a PhD in Sociology at The University of Edinburgh. Her research looks at the intersection between art and politics. She works with Joe Arton as the Teaching Matters Co-Editor and Student Engagement Officer.

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