OBTC 2007 Whetten Presentation

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Published on September 24, 2007

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Designing Courses for Significant Learning:  Designing Courses for Significant Learning David Whetten Brigham Young University dwhetten@byu.edu OBTC—2007 Pepperdine, CA This presentation is based on an article recently published in JME (June 2007: 339-357) Teaching  Learning Paradigm Shift:  Teaching  Learning Paradigm Shift The growing shift from teacher / teaching to student / learning in higher education has more to do with a change of focus, than with the acquisition of new educational tools and techniques (Barr and Tagg, 1995) TEACHER FOCUS LEARNER FOCUS The Effects of Teaching on Learning:  The Effects of Teaching on Learning College Students Speak Their Minds, 2001, Richard Light Harvard Assessment Project 25 colleges; 65 faculty and 1600 students interviewed 'According to undergraduates, certain professors exert a profound impact. They influence students’ development as young scholars, as good citizens, as human beings.' (p. 104) 'The best part of these examples is that they rarely depend on inborn or immutable personality traits of any given faculty member. Rather, students identify certain planned efforts these special professors made.' (p. 105) 'We asked faculty members and students what single change would most improve their current teaching and learning. Two ideas swamped all others: 1. Enhancing students’ awareness of ‘the big picture,’ the ‘big point of it all’—not just the details of a particular topic. ('How physicists think') 2. Helpful and regular feedback from students so a professor can make midcourse corrections.' (p. 66) Teaching  Learning = Increased Emphasis on Course Design:  Teaching  Learning = Increased Emphasis on Course Design 'When we teach we engage in two closely related, but distinct activities: We design the course and we engage in teacher-student interactions. In order to teach well, one must be competent in both course design and teacher-student interactions. However, of these two activities, our ability to design courses well is usually the most 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 has generated new ideas about course design that have, in essence, 'raised the bar' in terms of what’s possible.' L. Dee Fink, Creating Significant Learning Experiences, 2003 Predictors of Significant Learning:  Predictors of Significant Learning PLAN TO: 1.  Encourage student-faculty contact 2.   Encourage cooperation among students 3.   Encourage active learning 4.   Give prompt feedback 5.   Emphasize time on task 6.   Communicate high expectations 7.   Respect diverse talents and ways of learning Chickering and Gamson, 'Development and Adaptations of the Seven Principles,' New Directions for Teaching and Learning (1999) No. 80, 75-82. Key Elements of Learning-Centered Course Design:  Key Elements of Learning-Centered Course Design A learning-centered focus informs the careful (1) selection and (2) alignment of   Learning objectives Learning assessments Learning activities Learning-Centered Course Design:  Learning-Centered Course Design STEP 1. Select design components that promote learning:  Learning objectives Learning assessments Learning activities Effective Selection of Course Design Components :  Effective Selection of Course Design Components Learning Objectives Learning Activities Learning Assessment Higher-Level Learning Developmental Learning Assessments Engaging Learning Experiences Thoughtful Selection of Learning Objectives:  Thoughtful Selection of Learning Objectives What are the three or four most important things I hope students will master during this course? What do students in this course need to learn in order to prepare them for subsequent courses? What would I like my students to be doing consistently five years from now? How can I engender a love of this subject matter that will foster my students’ commitment to life-long learning? Higher-Level Learning Objectives:  Higher-Level Learning Objectives SUPPORTING DATA 'The faculty members who had an especially big impact are those who helped students make connections between a serious curriculum, on the one hand, and the students’ personal lives, values, and experiences on the other.' (R. Light, p. 110) 'As they begin each new course, what do students hope to get out of it? Details vary, but the most common hope students express is that each class, by its end, will help them to become a slightly different person in some way.' (p. 47) Implication: Use introduction of course learning outcomes to demonstrate the practical value of the course content (justify choices) Higher-Level Learning Objectives:  Higher-Level Learning Objectives L.W. Anderson and D. R. Krathwohl (eds). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing, 2001. Comprehension Application  Writing Assessable Learning Objectives:  Writing Assessable Learning Objectives At the conclusion of this course / program, students will be able to do [A] with / to [B], as assessed by [C]. A = Learning 'verbs' B = Course / program subject matter C = Assessment activity Example: Conflict Resolution 'Using a case study [C], students will be able to recognize [A] the three different types of interpersonal conflict [B] and apply [A] the type-appropriate conflict resolution practices [B].' Developmental Learning Assessments :  Developmental Learning Assessments SUPPORTING DATA 'Students have remarkably clear and coherent ideas about what kinds of courses they appreciate and respect the most. When asked the specifics, students of all sorts…list three critical features: Immediate and detailed feedback on both written and oral work High demands and standards, but with opportunities to revise and improve their work Frequent checkpoints, such as quizzes, tests, brief papers, or oral exams.' (R. Light) Developmental Learning Assessments :  Developmental Learning Assessments ASSESSMENTS THAT EXTEND (NOT CULMINATE) LEARNING Individual, followed by group, tests In-class, followed by take-home, tests Cumulative tests 'Real' problem solving experiences 'Real life' applications Developmental Learning Assessments:  Developmental Learning Assessments PRINCIPLES OF GOOD ASSESSMENT Use clearly stated criteria and standards Use multiple raters, e.g., instructors, peers, self Use both graded and non-graded assessments Provide frequent, immediate, discriminating and loving feedback Engaging Learning Activities:  Engaging Learning Activities SUPPORTING DATA 'We learned that how students study and do their homework assignments outside of class is a far stronger predictor of engagement and learning than particular details of their instructor’s teaching style. The design of homework really matters.' (R. Light, p. 52) 'Students who study outside of class in small groups of four to six, even just once a week, benefit enormously.' (p. 52) 'Students identify the courses that had the most profound impact on them as courses in which they were required to write papers, not just for the professor, as usual, but for their fellows students as well.' (p. 64) Engaging Learning Activities:  Engaging Learning Activities EXAMPLES Provide Relevant Learning Opportunities: Doing and observing; actual and simulated; individual and group Utilize Problem Solving Processes: Thought-provoking questions, effective diagnosis, principled analysis; systematic comparisons Encourage Reflection: Minute papers, learning portfolios, or learning journals, focusing on the subject and / or the learning process, completed in-class, out of class, online Facilitate Interaction with Teacher andamp; Classmates: Discussions, team projects, small group work, presentations, peer feedback Learning Activities: “Connecting Spokes”:  3. Learning Activities 2. Learning Assessments Learning Activities: 'Connecting Spokes' 1. Learning Objectives Learning-Centered Course Design :  Learning-Centered Course Design STEP 2. Align course design components:  Learning objectives Learning assessment Learning activities Aligning Course Design Components :  Aligning Course Design Components Misalignment between course objectives, classroom activities and assessment can often be the basis of students’ lack of learning. . . researchers have found that lack of excellence in [student learning is] caused, not so much by ineffective teaching, but by misalignment between what instructors intend to teach, what they actually teach, and what they test. S.A. Cohen, Instructional Alignment: Searching for a Magic Bullet Effective Alignment of Course Design Components :  Effective Alignment of Course Design Components Learning Objectives (Verb) Learning Activities (Verb) Learning Assessment (Verb) 1. Remember 2.Understand 3. Apply 4. Analyze 5. Evaluate 6. Create Alignment of Course Elements:  Alignment of Course Elements KEY POINTS Align learning assessments and learning activities with specified learning objectives Focus on consistent use of learning verbs in all course material Pay particular attention to alignment between activities and assessments Activities should prepare students to do well on assessments Recognize that students focus primarily on course requirements Teaching to the test is fine if tests reflect course objectives Diagnostic Exercise: Aligning Objectives and Tests :  Diagnostic Exercise: Aligning Objectives and Tests Diagnostic Exercise: Aligning Objectives and Assignments:  Diagnostic Exercise: Aligning Objectives and Assignments Diagnostic Exercise: Aligning Objectives and Activities:  Diagnostic Exercise: Aligning Objectives and Activities Conclusion:  Conclusion To improve student learning… Stay current with educational research on learning Study syllabi of related courses receiving high marks for learning Seek continuous feedback from students on facilitators and inhibitors of significant learning in our courses Course design—exercising best professional judgment re: What our students most need to learn, How they can best learn, and How best to assess their mastery of specified learning objectives Pay attention to course alignment Explicitly link all course components to stated learning objectives Use activities to prepare students for assessments Use students’ focus on grades to promote not inhibit learning

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