Why, How and What?

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2005)
This open access source examines the study of knowledge and justified belief,  the nature and structure of knowledge, and its limits.

Understanding by Design
Wiggins & McTighe (2005). Expanded 2nd Ed., ASCD.
Explores backward design of courses beginning with what we want students to know and be able to do.

Student Learning Outcomes
This CSU site addresses assessment, rubrics and has an archive of relevant links concerning student learning outcomes.

Checklist: Components of a Comprehensive Course Syllabus
Gross Davis, B. (2006). Adapted from “The Comprehensive Syllabus” in Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 2nd Ed.
This four page chart outlines an extensive list of elements to include.

Course Planning

Teaching decisions are based on a philosophy about teaching and learning
Planning decisions that faculty make are largely based on their philosophical understandings about how students learn. That philosophy is derived from individual experiences as learners, knowledge of how students learn, and experiences as teachers.  New faculty members are encouraged to explore various philosophies of teaching and learning, reflect on what they believe, and craft a personal philosophy statement. Awareness of your beliefs about teaching and learning through articulating them is as important as what you believe.  Many higher education institutions require such a statement as part of the application process.

Planning is critical to accomplished teaching
Accomplished teaching depends upon planning. Long range planning is used to create an overview of the course, and results in an outline of topics, policies and procedures, and expectations. The design of a course arises from hundreds of decisions faculty make about course goals and objectives, and ways to move students toward those goals.  Accomplished faculty facilitate student learning through courses designed around the most up to date knowledge in the field, about carefully selected topics, and with clearly articulated expectations. Instructors plan in different ways, but there are some strategies that streamline the process.

Student learning outcomes clarify course plans
Faculty need to be clear about what they want students to know and be able to do.  One way to accomplish this is by articulating specific and concise student learning outcomes.  These outcomes describe the knowledge and skills that students need to master by the end of the course.  This strategy of beginning with the end in mind, a form of backward design, helps instructors focus on the most important content and processes for students to engage with during a course.  Once you determine student learning outcomes, they become the frame for the course syllabus.

Course syllabus as a contract with students
An key element of accomplished college teaching is development of a well constructed course syllabus.  This contract with students serves as an overview of the course around which the other components are organized. New faculty need to determine what elements to include in a syllabus, the order to address course topics, how to construct a syllabus, and how to keep course content current.  It may be helpful to look at example syllabi to get ideas about where to get started. Later in the “instruction” section more detailed planning of individual course sessions will be addressed.

Possible questions to ask about Course Planning:

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