Our consultants often meet with individual faculty members and associate instructors to help design new courses or revitalize existing ones. Here are a few examples of consultations we have done in the past:
Teaching the Tools of the Discipline: An instructor found that students were simply parroting back his lecture rather than thinking like experts in his discipline. He decided to rewrite his course to emphasize process rather than content. Working with a consultant, they first identified the primary tools of the discipline and then designed the course to teach those tools.
Facilitating Discussion: An instructor wanted to improve participation in classroom discussions. After conducting mid-semester evaluations, it was determined that students were not reading the texts, which would reduce their desire to speak in class. Working with a consultant, the instructor redesigned the grading system to encourage students to do the readings, which then improved classroom discussion.
If the course is new to you and has never been offered before, find as many textbooks on the topic as you can, and compare them.
If you have previously taught the course, begin by assembling everything associated with the course, (syllabus, textbooks ad readings, handouts, exams, your notes for each class session, and the past evaluations by students).
Identify the constraints in teaching the course (hours, enrollment, majors/nonmajors, resources, technology, room assignment, prerequisites and follow-on courses).
Deciding What You Want to Accomplish:
Establish goals. What do you expect your students to do or to produce as a result of taking the course? (Be sure and write down the answer to this question.)
Identify both content and noncontent goals. (What do you want students to learn. What attitudes will they bring to the course -- how might these change?)
Scale down your goals to a realistic list.
Defining and Limiting Course Content:
- After you have “packed” all your topics into a preliminary list, toss out the excess baggage.
- Distinguish between essential and optional material.
- Emphasize the core concepts.
- Stress the classic issues, or the most enduring values or truths.
- Don’t plan class time for things they can learn on their own.
- Cut to the chase.
- Give students a conceptual framework on which to hang major ideas and factual information.
- Prepare a detailed syllabus.
Structuring the Course:
- Devise a logical arrangement for the course content—chronologically, by topic or category, from concrete to abstract, from theory to application, by increasing level of complexity, etc.
- List all class meetings.
- Select appropriate instructional methods for each class meeting. What are students going to do?
- Design in-class and homework assignments.
Selecting Textbooks and Readings:
- Choose textbooks and reading assignments that reflect your goals. (The textbook exerts a greater influence on what students learn than the teaching method (McKeachie, 1986)
- Foster a habit of reading throughout college.
- Follow the copyright laws.
- Be conscious of workload.
Setting Course Policies—What are your policies on:
- “Extra credit” assignments.
- Makeup exams.
- Late work.
- Grading (and Cheating)
Adapted from: Davis, Barbara. 1993. Tools for Teaching. Jossey-Bass Pub., S.F