Innovative Course Design

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Introductory Remarks

  • Traditional and Non-traditional Assumptions about College Courses
  • Traditional Assumptions
  • The college course as a competition in relation to absolute standards
  • Consequences for practice: maintains consistent and uniform assessment methods, focus on fairness of competition, reluctance to provide study aids or facilitate student collaboration and cooperation, "sink or swim" mentality.
  • The teacher as content and method expert: need to maintain disciplinary rigor, need to remain within the teacher's expertise.
  • Non-traditional Assumptions
  • The college course as an developmental environment that maximizes student motivation.
  • Recognizes inherent differences in motivation, preparation, and aptitude (from the first day)
  • Uses student differences to the advantage of the group (vs. simply documenting difference and promoting student alienation).
  • Maximizes student progress (relative to individual starting points).
  • Limits of non-traditional approaches: sequenced courses in science and language study depend upon meeting level standards; need to give students accurate information about their potential for advanced study.
  • Personal Caveat: These are techniques I have learned from others and which I have found useful. Teaching is an art which requires individual appropriation of methods. I cannot assess the suitability of these techniques for your particular pedagogical persona and project.

Electronic Quiz and Polling Technology

  • Demo of electronic quizzing and polling (currently Turning Point: [1])
  • For Reading Quizes: Questions should be easy to answer if you read the material and hard to guess if you didn't.
  • Value for Reading Quizes:
  • checks reading knowledge at start of class in about 5-10 minutes;
  • provides feedback (in "real time") to faculty and students about levels of preparation at the start of class;
  • assesses student preparation without subjective teacher assessment;
  • shares information about level of preparation with other students immediately. (Compare to traditional paper quizzes.)
  • Efficiency of electronic quiz and polling technology: teacher only writes questions, scoring and record keeping automated. Takes attendance.
  • Advanced uses (beyond reading quizzes): Promoting attention and measuring learning during class, self-paced quizes and take home exams.

Grading Schemes

  • Why should everyone be assessed by the same methods and instruments? (Traditional vs. Non-traditional assumptions)
  • Grading schemes:
  1. Faculty construct a menu of assessments and projects
  2. Designate required and optional, formal (rubric governed) vs. informal (completion based), percentage weight ranges, rubrics.
  3. Students choose from this menu a "scheme" or set of projects and assignments which mutually satisfy (optimize) faculty requirements and student preferences.
  • Examples of Grading schemes: Wisdom course [2], Ethics Course [3]
  • Values promoted by grading schemes: increased motivation, developmental approach to coursework, increased student satisfaction and engagement, promotes creativite student work.
  • Challenges of grading scheme method: keeping track of student work and deadlines.

"Flipping" Traditional Classroom Time

  • Traditional Model: Lecture, Faculty presentation, followed by student discussion and questioning.
  • Flipping: Shift presentations and lectures to homework (using text, audio, and video technology) and do homework and discussion in class. Outsourcing presentations (example of extensive use of outsourcing: [4]
  • Values promoted by flipping: Gives students access to interaction with faculty and students during class time, encourages faculty to raise production values for lectures or "outsource" standard presentation material, gives students option to "replay" difficult content, gives students access to faculty while trying to attain mastery of material, reduces passivity of classroom time. (Can be used in combination with electronic quiz technology.)
  • My primary experimentation with "flipping": short audio introductions ahead of class, abbreviated lecture time with small group discussion, and recording audio of class time for students who miss class or need to hear lesson again.
  • For further information: Kahn Academy [5]
  • Limits to flipping: It is still quite valuable to hear a live explanation of difficult ideas, even after having read a text. Flipping simply challenges us to differentiate the part of the lesson that needs to be live from the part that is better to make portable and repeatable given the availability of recording technologies such as mp3, Camtasia, YouTube, and other tools.

Three Additional Methods

Using Wikis to promote transparency and collaboration

  • Wikis for classroom notes, study questions, and student generated content.
  • Gonzaga's wiki server.
  • Demo of wiki editing.
  • Values promoted by wikis: transparency and efficiency.

Using Audio comments and audio/video files

  • Recording audio comments on student work instead of marking papers.
  • Recording classroom audio
  • Values promoted by audio comments on student work: coaching atmosphere, separation of qualitative and quantitative assessment.
  • Values promoted by audio from class and mini-audio lectures: helps students who miss class, allows reinforcement of difficult content, emphasis of major ideas, promotes coaching over "sorting" in assessment.

Survey Monkey

  • Survey Monkey is a free and powerful survey instrument for general polling and feedback. [6]