Over the next few weeks or months, my goal is to reflect on what and how I think as I design (big and small, d/Design) UNIV 291 in the roles of an instructional designer and instructor. There are many design decisions to consider. But there are a few BIG questions I must address. Uppermost in my mind is a question I borrow from David Perkins, a scholar I greatly admire for his ideas on thinking, teaching/learning, and clarity of thought.
With only 8 weeks for a summer online elective course, a big question I have is “What is worth learning?“ [If there are things worth learning in a course of study, there are also some things we have to let go of, writes Perkins.]
A related question came in the form of an invitation to have a discussion with graduate students:
How do instructors “select content” for a course?
Content means different things to teachers who adopt different pedagogical approaches. From the connectivist POV, content is external, constantly changing and interpreted (Larson & Lockee, 2014). In my course, we (my students and I) will build a network of knowledge resources together. One of the ways is to use a Diigo group bookmarking site.
Back to the main goal of my post, my response to the first question drives
- the core questions I will explore in the course with my students,
- what I will include in my course sessions (hence answering the second question), and
- the assessments I will design to gauge what is being learned, or not learned, how students are learning, etc.
In his latest book, Future Wise, Perkins (2014) describes a scenario where a smart-alecky student raises his hand to ask, “Why do we need to know this?” Therein lies the counterpart (or counterpoint?) to Perkins’ question of what’s worth learning. Indeed, as instructors, we hope to avert the occurrence of such instances, albeit astute.
As I ponder this key question (what’s worth learning), I thought about the more than two decades of formal schooling I’ve had and what of it has remained in my life.
1. Most of the academic content I’ve learned are stored in long-term memory. What counts as active knowledge are what I use daily — some theories, strategies and heuristics I may refer to for design thinking and problem solving.
2. What has lingered over the years and used persistently are skills of reading, writing, thinking (problem-solving, metacognition), communicating, and relating to people.
3. The early years of learning more than one language and culture and of avid reading and journaling have been augmented by specialized learning in my later years of formal schooling. These practices have morphed into and assumed 21st century forms — blogging and e-reading extend what I learned from my early years. These practices are a result of my metacognitive awareness and responses.
4. In graduate school, certain values and attitudes were reinforced; discipline, parsimony in writing and precision of thought. In the presence of my mentors, I absorbed via osmosis and observation abstract concepts such as their approach to research and teaching. To this day, what they taught and modeled for me are ideas I still implement in my life — the knowledge and practice of research, scholarly writing, mentoring, teaching, and service.
All these have remained. How then do these disparate thoughts help me in crafting a course that is worth learning? Here are some preliminary thoughts based on my pedagogical approach to teaching and learning:
- How will I frame the course topic(s) so that it is generative and makes as many connections as possible to what matters in learners’ lives?
- As a thinking-centered course, what context(s) will I set the course in to help them develop understanding of visible thinking and visible learning? Learning doesn’t take place in a vacuum (Perkins, 2009).
- What do I want learners to understand when they finish the course? What do I want learners to get better at doing? What will learners construct an understanding of? (This has been somewhat articulated in my syllabus 1.0.)
- How will they actively explore, inquire, argue, and construct their understanding of the topic?
- What topics will the learners build a network of external knowledge sources on?
Let’s see how these macro-level questions will guide me further in course design.
Meanwhile, at the micro design level, I’ve been working on the course site header and trying to pick the best theme, course site layout, and navigation for the site.
Do you think the header works? Till the next post.
|Homepage of UNIV291 summer 2015 course|