HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Forward thinking might be exactly what teachers strive for in the classroom, but it may require some backwards design. Beth Harrison, PhD, director of the
A state worker fabricates laboratory test results that can lead to false criminal convictions A restaurant inspector disregards health code violations Someone tampers with sports
I’ve sat on the Curriculum Committee at two different higher education institutions. I’ve also participated in college assessment committees and accreditation committees at both the
For baseball fans and players, springtime can only mean one thing: spring training. Every year professional baseball players head to Arizona or Florida to hone their craft. These are professionals mind you, but they continue to spend hours each year working on many of the same things Little Leaguers work on during the start of their seasons—throwing, catching, hitting, base running, and so forth.
As they make minor adjustments in these fundamentals of the game, the overall outcome is a major improvement. The same is true for faculty who remain mindful of their fundamentals, and make small, incremental improvements to their teaching.
Bloom’s Taxonomy has long been regarded as the holy grail in leading students through a process of content mastery. The traditional journey begins with imparting information to learners and finds its apex in enabling learners to evaluate and assess knowledge claims. In theory, each step of the journey to mastery builds on prior steps.
Can a syllabus get students excited for your course? What will keep students coming back to it? These seven design elements can help students get the most out of your syllabus, prepare them for the course, and focus on the learning goals ahead. My Engaging Syllabus Design: Example illustrates all of these design elements.
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.
Early in my career, I focused most of my efforts on teaching content. That is, after all, what most of us are hired to do, right? With experience and greater understanding of how learning works, my attention shifted toward metacognition. I began investing lots of time and energy reading and identifying ways to help students grow as learners while they learned the content.