Next Projects: “professional” course design

I have done a lot of thinking about my teaching this term, but I have been so swamped by the circumstances of my linear algebra assessment structure that I haven’t had any time to write.

In particular, I have been thinking about both assessment (from reading and discussing Linda Nilson’s Specifications Grading), and about general structure of college education (from reading and discussing Teaching Naked by José Bowen).

After a decade of teaching while actually thinking about what I am doing, I am starting to feel like a professional. So my next task is to take a more professional approach to designing courses for next term.

I will be using this paper by L. Dee Fink as a map for my work:

A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning

I invite you to play along. I will start by rethinking the design of a course that I have run with great success, Math 3600 Euclidean Geometry, so that I can learn the process. Then I will design MATH 3630 Differential Geometry, which needs some attention. I am assigned both of these for next term, so I can count this as work on schedule.

If you are not convinced this is a good idea, consider this from the opening of the guide:

When we teach, we engage in two closely related, but distinct activities. First, we design the course by gathering information and making a number of decisions about the way the course will be taught. Second, we engage in teacher-student interactions as we implement the course we have designed.

However, of these two activities, our ability to design courses well is usually the limiting factor. Most of us have had little or no training in how to design courses. In addition during the last two decades, research on college teaching and learning have led to some new ideas about course design that have, in essence, “raised the bar” in terms of what is possible.

So if you care to join me as I take a more purposeful, professional approach to course design, stay tuned. First up: an outline of what to do, in order.

(As I look ahead, I think it is a 12 step program…)

2 thoughts on “Next Projects: “professional” course design

  1. Ooooh! Course design! I am very excited.

    I am annoyed at Fink right now, though, because he (allegedly) told one of my colleagues that only applied mathematics should ever be taught to students. But I try to ignore that when I read his work, because he generally seems to have really good things to say.

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