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Free course

Teaching and learning tricky topics

Free statement of participation on completion
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Teaching and learning tricky topics

As a teacher, educator or trainer, do you often think, I just don’t understand why they don’t understand?

Learning should be transformative, and this course will unlock your full potential, using a practice-based learning tool to help identify the barriers in students' understanding.

This free course, Teaching and learning tricky topics, has a course structure that builds upon understanding you have developed during the previous week’s study. You should expect to spend 3 hours per week studying (a total of 24 hours). 

Through the first three weeks you will be focusing on the background to tricky topics and how to apply the process to your practice. Weeks 4–5 will focus on the role of learning design and how to use this approach with tricky topics, and the final three weeks will help you to look at the wider picture of using tricky topics and learning design to help innovate, assess and embed your understanding with others. Moreover, it will be outlined how you can become a champion for these processes.


Enrolling on the course will give you the opportunity to earn an Open University digital badge. Badges are not accredited by The Open University but they're a great way to demonstrate your interest in the subject and commitment to your career, and to provide evidence of continuing professional development.

Once you are signed in, you can manage your digital badges online from My OpenLearn. In addition, you can download and print your OpenLearn statement of participation  - which also displays your Open University badge.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey 347 343 347. Once you complete the course we would also value your feedback and suggestions for future improvement, in our optional end-of-course survey 348 344 348. Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.

This course is endorsed by the CPD Standards Office  340345349.  It can be used to provide evidence of continuing professional development but is not accredited learning. We are unable to provide formal learner verification services for participation in our open online courses, which are provided freely by The Open University as self-directed CPD. 

Anyone wishing to provide evidence of their enrolment on this course is able to do so by sharing their Activity Record on their OpenLearn Profile, which is available before completion of the course and earning of the Statement of Participation.

Teaching and learning tricky topics

Earn this free Open University digital badge if you complete this course! The badge can be displayed, shared and downloaded as a marker of your achievement. The badge is awarded for completing the course and passing the quizzes.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand the background to tricky topics and how they relate to the subject area
  • apply the tricky topic process to support identifying student learning barriers and why they occur

  • understand how learning design activities can help to identify the ‘student voice’

  • apply student and activity profiles and discover how they can inform a tricky topics intervention

  • understand why and how to develop a targeted tricky topic intervention, as well as how to assess student learning of a tricky topic.

First Published: 19/01/2018

Updated: 12/09/2019

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