It is important to align your course outcomes with those of your department or degree program. Check with your department chair to see what program standards exist for your course and how you need to incorporate them into your class.
If you are teaching a class in genetic fingerprinting, for example, you may need to teach students about the molecular structure of DNA, or they may have already learned about that in an earlier class. Some disciplines allow teachers more flexibility, while others have more prescribed learning outcomes for each class, possibly because they are prerequisites for more advanced courses.
Even if you receive little direction from your program chair, it's a good idea to talk to others in your program to ensure that you aren't duplicating their efforts or leaving major gaps in students' knowledge.
If your teaching schedule prohibits you from talking to your colleagues in person (you teach at night, for example, and they teach during the day), try e-mailing or at least asking for a copy of their course syllabi to learn the major topics they are teaching.
This process is likely to be especially helpful for instructors teaching general education courses, such as mathematics, where connections to workplace or program goals may be overlooked.
Speaking to instructors of higher-level courses in a few of your students' majors can help you determine how to add context to your subject and will ensure that your students receive a coherent learning experience as they advance through their programs.
If you are unable to talk to your colleagues, try doing your own research to determine the context in which your students will be putting their knowledge to use. A good place to start is the Pathways to Technology Web site:
So far, we've encouraged the following important steps when thinking about outcomes:
- Consider the skills students will need in the industry they are entering.
- Identify what students should be able to do upon completion of the course.
- Align your course with your degree program by looking at the program as a whole and talking with students and other teachers in the program.
In the next section, you will learn practical tips on getting started.