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Course Development

Course development is the design of a new course or revision of an existing course.

Intentional course design focuses on what students learn and can do with that learning by the end of that course. This design is expressed on a syllabus that is a promise between you and the students that learning will occur, that you and the students co-create that knowledge.

What does the syllabus look like? Think intentionally about the messages of the syllabus on our syllabus page.

Backward Design

Backwards design graphicBackward course design (Wiggins, McTighe, 2005) starts with the process of asking, what do I want my students to be able to do by the end of the semester?

Once this question is answered, the designer works “backward” in designing the course, so that students will have the knowledge and skills that they need to meet this expectation. The main objectives of your course—determined when you answer the question, “What do I want my students to be able to do?”—become your objectives for their learning. The accomplishment of these objectives are their learning outcomes.

For a more extensive tutorial, visit Dee Fink’s page on Designing Better Learning Experiences or read his book on Creating Significant Learning Experiences.

In answering this initial question—”What do I want my students to do?”—pay attention to the types of learning that students will do in the course. The course should ask them not only to remember and understand information, but to work with their learning at the higher cognitive levels (see the diagram on Bloom’s Taxonomy).  When students apply, analyze, and create during a course, their learning is more robust and transferable.

Consider as well other aspects of learning that will affect the quality of learning and a student’s ability to transfer knowledge to new courses and situations, such as their awareness of their learning processes, the level of their motivation, and their valuing of the course.  See the diagram developed from Bloom et al and Dee Fink (Dee Fink Plus) for a complete picture of these aspects of learning.

Engaging students in deep learning will more easily enable students to retain and transfer their knowledge, to build upon as the continue their education.

After thinking through your main goals for student learning, add these to the syllabus and build the course from that point.

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