Planning Your Course
Accessibility and Inclusivity in Assessments
Assessments are used to evaluate knowledge, skills, or abilities (KSA) in the classroom. Accessible assessments aim to increase equity through the way KSA are tested (methodology) and the way the assessment content is conveyed to the students (e.g., clarity of questions).
Course Design refers to the intentional processes of building a series of learning experiences for a particular learning environment. Similar terms or concepts such as instructional design, course planning, and learning experience design are sometimes used in conjunction with Course Design to refer to specific aspects of the design process. Course Design is especially useful in digital learning environments due to the various formats of online/hybrid classes and the wide variety of learner contexts.
Course Map & Goals
Course mapping, or planning, outlines how course goals translate into the classroom. A course map aligns instructional goals with specific learning objectives, learning experiences, assessments, and instructional materials. It also includes a plan for instructor presence. Course maps are guided by one main question: What should learners know or be able to do at the end of a course?
Having a clear, organized, and engaging design for your Blackboard class page can prevent confusion, and encourage students’ participation and enjoyment in the course.
Planning Class Sessions
After determining course goals and mapping a class by planning specific learning objectives and assessments, it’s a good idea to plan individual sessions. Planning class sessions involves creating structure for how an instructor’s limited face-to-face time with learners will be spent. What activities and experiences will best support the learning objectives for the course?
Student Projects with CASPA
CASPA is a multimodal instructional design model with 5 stages: Consume, Analyze, Scaffold, Produce, and Assess. The CASPA model provides a framework for creating multimodal assignments through embedding relevant skill-building and feedback opportunities.
The syllabus for a course is a contract between instructors and learners and might be the first impression learners have of a course. It sets the tone and provides an overview for what the semester will be like. Think of it as a course brochure or a map guiding learners through the course.
Transparent Assignment Design
Transparent assignment design is a framework for structuring assignments to promote and encourage student learning. Based on research from Dr. Mary Ann Winkelmes (University of Nevada Las Vegas, Brandeis University) and the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) Higher Ed Project, transparent assignment design is a way of communicating expectations to learners. The framework includes three components for assignment design: purpose, tasks, and criteria. Instructors create transparency by describing how students will learn content, why learning experiences were planned in a particular way, and how students will use their learning in the course and beyond.
Teaching Your Course
Accessibility in Presentations
Accessible presentations are created to reach the widest audience possible by minimizing barriers created by colors, fonts, images, and other presentation elements.
Adult Learning Theory
Adult learning theory, sometimes called andragogy, refers to the idea that teaching adult learners requires a different set of pedagogical skills than those used to teach younger students. The guidance in this resource applies to learners who are 18 or older and have participated in at least some professional, career, or internship experiences in addition to traditional classroom learning experiences.
Assessment Types: Diagnostic, Formative, and Summative
Diagnostic assessments (e.g. pre-class survey)are those used to determine students’ interests and prior knowledge about a topic ; they are typically deployed at the start of the semester or new unit of content and help instructors to collect valuable information to inform course design and teaching.
Formative assessments (e.g., anonymous polls, think-pair-share, class discussion) are used to check student understanding throughout the learning process and make adjustments accordingly. Formative assessments are typically used throughout the semester.
Summative assessments (e.g., final exam, term paper, project presentation) are used to determine the extent to which students have met course learning objectives; they are typically used at the end of a unit of study or at the end of the semester and are usually high takes and graded(Carnegie Mellon University, n.d.).
Building Community in the Classroom
A classroom community is an inclusive space for social and academic support and connection as students and instructors engage in open discussion and collaboration.
Classroom management encompasses the expectations, methods, routines, and relationships employed to help create and maintain a classroom community. Sometimes established in collaboration with students, classroom management can take the form of classroom norms to shape the learning environment and promote successful class sessions.
Collaborative learning helps students learn to work and solve problems alongside their peers and sharpens their understanding by encouraging them to listen to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches include study groups within a course, team-based assignments and writing, and cooperative projects and research (AAC&U, n.d.). True collaboration requires team members to work together to complete a task, rather than breaking a large task into smaller components that each member completes independently.
Crafting Strong Multiple Choice Items
Multiple-choice questions are commonly used in tests and exams to evaluate student learning. A multiple-choice question is an assessment item consisting of a stem, which poses the question or problem, followed by a list of possible responses, also known as options or alternatives. One of the alternatives will be the correct or the best answer, while the others are called distracters, the incorrect or less correct answers.
Culturally Affirming Pedagogy
Gloria Ladson-Billings (2021) defines the term culturally relevant pedagogy as teaching that focuses on advancing student learning, developing cultural competence, and fostering critical consciousness. Culturally affirming teaching practices are research-based concepts and frameworks that originated with a K-12 focus but are beneficial to students at any level of instruction. Geneva Gay (2018) defined culturally responsive teaching as “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them” (p. 31). These pedagogies focus on student strengths, assets, and communities in teaching and learning.
Design thinking (DT) is an iterative, human-centered, creative approach to innovation that integrates the needs of people, and what is feasible, equitable, and sustainable (IDEO, 2022). Teaching leverages design in the sense that the aim is to keep improving practice of attaining the goal of student learning. Therefore, design thinking from a teaching and learning perspective views teachers are designers.
Developing Learning Objectives
According to Melton (1997), learning objectives are statements that clearly describe what students are expected to achieve as a result of instruction. Learning objectives describe instructors’ expectations for their students and communicate the knowledge, skills, and abilities that students are supposed to obtain due to instructional activities (Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center, n.d.)
Experiential learning provides students with an engaging and meaningful learning experience that lets them “learn by doing.” Through experiential learning students gain valuable skills like decision making, confidence, critical thinking, and creativity. Examples of experiential learning include participation in lab or studio sessions, internships, service learning, study abroad, and makerspaces.
In addition to doing, reflection is widely recognized as a key component of experiential learning. In the widely cited Kolb model (1984), conceptualization and experimentation are also key components in the experiential learning cycle.
Generative AI and ChatGPT
ChatGPT, Google Bard, Microsoft Copilot, and similar tools are referred to as Generative AI because they can interact with humans in a natural and conversational style when generating sophisticated, original, and human-like text based on simple prompts from users.
Inclusive Teaching Strategies
Inclusive teaching embraces students’ various cultural and social backgrounds and recognizes students’ different learning needs and preferences. By establishing a welcoming learning environment and using a variety of teaching methods that motivate students to learn, we create a learning space where everyone belongs.
Flip is a video discussion platform that allows instructors to create a “group” for each course. Within each group, instructors post topics learners can respond to using their camera-enabled computer or mobile device. Formerly Flipgrid, Flip is now a Microsoft tool, allowing William & Mary users access with @wm.edu. Flip is easy to learn and can be quickly embedded into Blackboard. Responses to topics can be as long as 10 minutes, and learners can comment on others’ posts with video or text responses.
Project Based Learning (PBL)
“Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge” (PBLWorks). These projects ideally involve investigation of a real-world problem that requires students to think critically and collaboratively develop creative solutions.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework addresses learner differences through a neurocognitive perspective (Rose & Strangman, 2007). The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) suggests three neural networks play a role in cognition and learning: the affective network focuses on why learning is important, the recognition network understands what needs to be learned and retained, and the strategic network decides how to learn the new material (CAST, 2022; Rose & Strangman, 2007). In education, UDL refers to designing lessons and courses around the assumption of student variability in the classroom—taking a proactive approach and promoting multiple pathways for engagement, representation, and expression in learning.
Teaching in a Digital Age: Regular Substantive Interaction
Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) is a federal requirement for distance (online) course instructors to maintain specific engagement expectations with students to support their learning. Federal law requires interactions be initiated by the instructor, closely related to the course content, and scheduled in a predictable way.
Assessing Your Course
Although definitions vary across research in the field, reflective teaching can be conceptualized as “a cognitive and affective process or activity that (1) requires active engagement on the part of the individual; (2) is triggered by an unusual or perplexing situation or experience; (3) involves examining one’s responses, beliefs, and premises in light of the situation at hand; and (4) results in integration of the new understanding into one’s experience” (Rogers, 2001, p. 41).
A rubric is a tool used to evaluate and assess a learner’s work and can be used for grading. It is a detailed set of criteria or standards for evaluating the quality of most assessments including essays, presentations, projects, artwork, and even calculations. A rubric includes a list of assignment criteria and a description of the level of performance expected for each criterion. The criteria are most often listed in table format and can be accompanied by a scoring guide or scale to assign a specific point value to each level of performance.
A student survey is a method of collecting information from students about themselves, the curriculum, teaching methods, and the course design. Student surveys can be used before, during, and after instruction. Surveys allow instructors to get to know learners, build a classroom community, and evaluate learning progress. Student surveys can easily inform practice, so instructors can improve teaching.