It’s been a privilege to teach over some two decades, and during that time, I’ve found a series of techniques that were successful in the
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
course design strategies
You wait with anticipation. You receive the email: Course assignments are posted. You click on your Course Assignment. And—you’re assigned to teach a course that
In the face-to-face classroom, each faculty member typically designs and teaches their own course with minimal input from departmental colleagues. Reflective of this approach, many
In the world of diets, movements are the thing that sells…Vegan, Paleo, Whole 30, Keto, and, now, Carnivore (…seriously, it’s a thing). Yet, upon closer inspection, many of these diets perform similarly in the long run, which is to say they perform underwhelmingly. When a dieter fails to get the pseudoscientific benefits promised, they are likely to blame themselves. They relapsed, cheated, or otherwise failed to follow instructions (succumbing to the fate of being an imperfect human being). It is less likely that we question the diet. Instagram before and after posts abound. Diets can put people in a bind: why won’t this work for me? Given the gap between basic principles (eat your vegetables, less processed foods) and the dos and don’ts of diets, it’s worth asking what value diets add to our lives.
Readers of Faculty Focus are probably already familiar with backward design. Most readily connected with such researchers as Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe, and Dee Fink, this approach to course construction asks faculty to initially ignore the specific content of a class. Rather, the designer begins the process by identifying desired learning goals, and then devising optimal instruments to measure and assess them. Only thereafter does course-specific content come into play—and even then, it is brought in not for the sake of “covering” it, but as a means to achieve the previously identified learning objectives. Courses designed this way put learning first, often transcend the traditional skillset boundaries of their discipline, and usually aim to achieve more ambitious cognitive development than do classes that begin—and often end —with content mastery as the primary focus. Although the advantages of backward design are manifest, it’s probably still the exception to, rather than the rule of, course planning.
I continue to be concerned that we don’t design learning experiences as developmentally as we should. What happens to students across a course (and the collection of courses that make up a degree program) ought to advance their knowledge and skills. Generally, we do a good job on the knowledge part, but we mostly take skill development for granted. We assume it just happens, and it does, sort of, just not as efficiently and extensively as it could if we purposefully intervened.
When instructional video is produced thoughtfully and used to promote active engagement, it can improve student motivation, learning, and performance, make content more memorable, and bring highly visual material to life (Ljubojevic et al, 2014; Zhang et al, 2006; Hegeman, 2015; Hsin & Cigas, 2013; Merkt et al, 2011; Kay, 2012; Schwan & Riempp, 2014; Routt et al, 2015; Jarvis & Dickie, 2009).
Video has other benefits as well. It allows students to watch lectures at their own pace, rewinding and re-watching as needed. It lets instructors assign lectures as homework, opening up class time for interaction. And it can reduce the total time faculty need to spend preparing and delivering the same material for different semesters or audiences. Once you’ve recorded a video, you can–theoretically–use it again and again.
I have been doing some reading and thinking about hard courses. Courses need to be challenging, but when they become too hard, students stop trying and little learning results. So how do we find that sweet spot between hard and not too hard? More importantly, how do we create that sweet spot in our own courses through the decisions we make about content, assignments, and exams?
So, the fall semester is about to begin and you’ve decided to try something new in one or more of your courses. Maybe it’s a
In our role as instructors, most of us deal with the problem of too much content. We often embrace a “content coverage” model in designing our courses, in which we attempt to cover all of the material that we deem important or interesting in the area of our course. The result is a course that increasingly balloons out of control each year as more and more content is added, resulting in a harried instructor and frustrated students.