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Planning a Course : Syllabi and Assessment

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1 Planning a Course : Syllabi and Assessment
Doug Gamble Department of Earth Sciences UNC-Wilmington

2 Initial Phase: Building Strong Primary Components Where are you?
Planning Your Course: A Decision Guide -- Fink, L.D., Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Appendix A. Initial Phase: Building Strong Primary Components Where are you? Where do you want to go? How will the students and you know if you get there? How are you going to get there Who and what can help?

3 What are the major topics in this course?
Planning Your Course: A Decision Guide -- Fink, L.D., Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Appendix A. Intermediate Phase: Assembling the Components into a Dynamic, Coherent Whole What are the major topics in this course? What will the students need to do? What is the overall scheme of learning activities?

4 Final Phase: Taking care of Important Details
Planning Your Course: A Decision Guide -- Fink, L.D., Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Appendix A. Final Phase: Taking care of Important Details How are you going to grade? What could go wrong? Let students know what you are planning. How will you know how the course is going? How it went?

5 Remember Nihil Nimbus Twelve Steps too much at once.
We will focus on the Initial Phase The process outlined by Fink should not be viewed as a single semester or quarter linear path. Widdle away and revisit!!

6 1. Where do we start? Some examples of syllabi

7 1. Where do we start? Work in pairs (one human, one physical) on the course Practical Methods in Geography (UNCW) Catalogue Description: Introduction to fundamental and analytical methods used by professional geographers. Includes examination of geography and as a discipline of human inquiry and methods used in all sub-disciplines of geography. Topics Covered in Course: What is Geography?, What is a Geographer?, Asking a Geographic Question and the Scientific Method, Collecting Data: Qualitative, Collecting Data: Quantitative, Archival Research, the Library, and Internet Resources, Basic Map Construction, Orienteering and Maps, Field Observation and the Field Notebook, Basic Spatial Statistics, Basic GIS, Basic Remote Sensing, Geographic Writing What information do you need to start making the syllabus? Make a list.

8 What info does Fink say you need?
Where are you? (size up the situational factors) Specific context: # of students, kind of classroom, and so on General context: place in the curriculum, professional preparation, and so on. Nature of subject: convergent or divergent, stable or rapidly changing? Student characteristics: prior knowledge, attitudes, maturity, and so on. Teacher characteristics: Knowledge of and feelings toward subject and students; teaching philosophy, experience, and so on. Special pedagogical challenge: What is the special challenge to teaching this subject well?

9 2. Where do you want to go? Now that we have the basic information, write a purpose statement for this class, spend no more than 5 minutes on it.

10 Fink’s suggestions for purpose statements:
Where do you want to go? (Ideally what you would like students to get out of this course?) Foundational knowledge: understanding key content: fact, principles, concepts, and so on. Application: thinking skills, other physical and intellectual skills, managing complex projects. Integration: Connecting ideas, information, realms of life, and so on. Human Dimension: Knowing how to interact with oneself and with others. Caring: Making changes in one’s feelings, interest, and values. Learning how to learn: Learning how to keep on learning after the course is over.

11 3. How will the students and you know if they get there?
What kinds of feedback and assessment would be appropriate? (Fink) For each goal specified here, what information can you gather that will tell you and each student about individual progress toward that goal? About how well the whole class is learning? For which goals are paper-and-pencil evaluations sufficient? Which need reflective writing? Performance assessment? What kind of feedback and assessment can you provide that will go beyond just providing a basis for the grade and will actually enhance the learning process?

12 Issues of Assessment and Aligning Goals and Assessment – Hay, 2004
First Question: What are the purposes of assessment? Capture student attention and effort. Generate appropriate learning activity. Provide feedback to students. Develop in students ability to monitor own learning standards. Allocate marks. Ensure accountability (to show outsiders that standards are satisfactory). Gibbs (1999)

13 Types of assessment: Formative assessment - teachers feed information back to students in ways that enable the student to learn better. May carry a grade. Summative assessment - attempt to summarize student learning at some point in time, say the end of a course. May be formative in context of overall program. Both should align with intended outcomes!!

14 Types of assessment: Norm-referenced assessment Grading the curve’.
Set proportion of students receive set grades. Work assessed relative to other students in class

15 Types of assessment: Criterion-referenced assessment.
Direct link between extent to which specified criteria fulfilled and result achieved. All students can pass or fail…

16 Aligning goals and assessment tasks:
What learning outcomes have you specified for your class? That is, what specific skills and knowledge do you want your students to develop? Try setting out no more than six outcomes for your class, beginning with the phrase: “At the end of this course students will be able to: ….”

17 Geography for the New Undergraduate (GNU), Liverpool Hope University.
At the end of this course you will be able to: interpret and compare data presented in a variety of formats; identify trends and comment upon these; critically evaluate data and other material; critically discuss issues arising from the study of information; develop an effective argument in order to present your ideas; and reflect upon your contribution to the discussion and evolve strategies to develop this ability.

18 J.W. Harrington UW 2001 ‘Geography of International Trade’
Be able to: argue in favor of liberalized trade, to argue its pitfalls, and to explain who benefits and whose interests are harmed. define "globalization" and be able to critique the various ways in which the word is used. identify current, and to propose alternative, institutional arrangements toward international economic integration. read arguments about trade policy, understanding the major instruments and organizations of trade policy.

19 What form of assessment?
Now, for each outcome, how will you know that students have achieved the learning outcomes you have specified? What exercises or tests will allow students to demonstrate their skills/knowledge to you? That is, what forms of assessment will best allow outcomes to be evaluated?

20 Forms of assessment task.
Exam. Essay. Practical work. Laboratory report. Field report. Poster presentation. Flyer production. Media release. Article review. Group work. Log book. Map production. Role play. Spoken presentation…..

21 All forms of assessment should be …
Timely so that students can use it for subsequent learning and work to be submitted. Prompt so that students can recall what they did and thought at the time. Supportive of learning so students have clear indications of how to improve their performance. Focused on achievement, not effort. The work should be assessed, not the student Specific to the learning outcomes. Fostering of independence leading students to being capable of assessing their own work Efficient for staff to do.

22 Now we are out of time but the remaining two steps in this phase:
How are you going to get there? (Select or develop learning activities that reflect the principles of active learning.) How will students acquire the content, that is, the necessary information and ideas? What kinds of ‘doing’ and ‘observing’ experiences do the students need? Can you create rich learning experiences that allow students to pursue several learning goals simultaneously? What kinds of reflective dialogue will help them make sense of content and connect it to their own lives? Can you develop multiple forms of such dialogue – one minute papers, weekly journals, end-of term learning portfolios?

23 Now we are out of time but the remaining two steps in this phase:
Who and what can help? (Find resources.) What resources will the students need (and can you get) to support each of the learning activities listed in Decision #4? These may be people, places, or things, including media.

24 And remember . . . Nihil nimbus . . . widdle away and revisit!!

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