The last time I needed to design a learning experience…
One of my tasks this past fall was to begin redesigning two course I’d piloted four years – and one graduate dean – ago. These would each be one-credit hybrid courses focusing on career planning for graduate and postgraduate students – one course focused on higher education careers, one on careers beyond academe. They’d be accompanied by another one-credit mentored teaching / professional experience practicum a colleague would design in its pilot form.
So, here’s where I started: Atmosphere / Context
Currently we offer a three-credit single semester course that blends all of these elements together. While large numbers of students indicate wanting to take this course each term, few actually do: many come to the course when they’ve run out of department-funded tuition credits, many don’t really need mentored teaching experience (often the non-science folks feel like, as one student put it, “I’ve been teaching my brains out for years, now I want to reflect on how to apply those skills in a range of settings more than practice them in some other setting”), and most just want to think on the three components over a year-long span of time or to have a chance to take on just one aspect of the course at a time.
Here’s the design image I have in mind, largely drawn from work by John Biggs and Catherine Tang (with a bit of a nod to L. Dee Fink, whose work appearing after B&T publication also takes up these themes and schemes):
Given that I – like many of my students – like to imaging design in three dimensions, the following two slides are my first pass at moving into three dimensions:
At the root of course design – for me – are practices I learned while being an undergraduate student in political science courses taught by Carolyn Shrewsbury and Scott Shrewsbury (along with Truman Wood and Milton Oschner), and principles I learned in working with Patti Lather while she was a new faculty member of the Mankato State University Women’s Center (before becoming a tenure “neon marxist” professor – as we called her – at Ohio State University).
This is one way I’ve summed up that learning for my Teaching in Higher Education students, to draw on a citation in Lather’s Getting Smart book, which draws on her mixed methods study of pedagogy and of research practices:
Why Pedagogy? Because I want that light that’s at the heart of the lamp photograph in an earlier image to become the beacon – the three agencies at work. And I plan from that understanding when it comes to course design.
And from this, I draw – the messy mind map that launched this course is still only “living” in paper notes on the corner of my desk at work. The notes are in pencil. The shell that holds the notes is a collect of single pages with three empty boxes on the left half of a page and three sets of lined note-taking segments on the right – essentially a blank powerpoint handouts template printed out. The blank spaces function a bit like OULDI cards from #oldsmooc_2, the space for writing records the shuffling and deal making I chase along the way to coming up with a skeleton plan. The whole way asking
- “Why do I want to teach this / why do I want us to learn this?” and
- “What will students make of this as they bridge learning together and creating the artifacts that will stretch from the course to their lives beyond the course – whether 5 minute or 5 years or 5 decades beyond the course?”
From that, I get to this – or I get to 2x this as what’s posted here is the left side of a white board recording the move from visualizing to narrativizing the course so that I can invite colleagues and students to view and question and add to and amend with me.
This term’s run of the re-designed course has begun – we’ve just wrapped an introductory module online, and students are preparing for a first F2F session this coming Friday.