Once you have identified the desired outcomes for your course and created appropriate assessments, the time is right to plan learning experiences. Key questions to be answered at this stage in the design process are:
- What concepts, themes, and issues do students need to understand in order to demonstrate the desired outcomes?
- What skills should students possess and perform in order to demonstrate the desired outcomes?
- How should skills and content be taught?
- What activities will impart the needed knowledge and skills to students?
What Are Concepts, Themes, and Issues?
- Concepts are main ideas that make up a course of study; for example, theory of relativity.
- A course may have two or three core themes—such as evidence-based reasoning—that run throughout a course of study.
- Issues—such as communication, teamwork, and innovation—are skill areas beyond the core content that are essential to success in a course and need to be addressed when designing learning experiences.
As the content expert in the classroom, you likely have a vast knowledge and great enthusiasm for your subject. This is a great asset, but can also be a problem if you are unable to edit your course content down to what students can learn in a semester.
Now plan your learning. Traditionally, science content has been taught through lectures. However, research shows that students learn science best when actively involved.
Look for opportunities for students to take part in active discovery. Doing so will help them realize how scientific knowledge is created, understand connections between what they are doing in the classroom and what they will need to do in the workplace, and experience how the scientific process aids in evaluating new procedures and information.
Adapted from Reed, "Learning Science: A NCSR Approach." Winter 2005.
This approach may take more time and effort than preparing lectures and demonstrations or guiding students through lab exercises, but the rewards are much greater as well.
(You will learn more about planning course activities in Module 3.)