You all did a great job digging in and dissecting what you mean by “understand” and beginning to write learning outcomes for your course.
I hope you’ll do more of it, for both your and your students’ sakes. My advice to you:
Writing LOs is hard. It takes time. Book some time on your calendar to do it. Really, set aside, say, an hour a couple of times a week, and do nothing but draft LOs. It’s time well spent. You might draft only 1 or 2 or 5 in an hour – that’s okay. Every little bit helps.
Have someone with some content knowledge or the same kind of expertise read them over. The words you write on the page are likely stimulating an entire framework in your head. The external reader will help you reveal what you really want your students to be able to do.
If you pursue a career in higher education, whether it’s at an R1 university, a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI) or elsewhere, you can make scholarly teaching a part of your career. Physics education research, psychology education research, medical education research, and many others — these are all well-established and flourishing fields of study. You can follow the research, conduct the research and contribute to the community that examines how students learn your discipline. In many academic positions, from R1 to PUI, conducting and publishing your teaching-as-research (TAR) can be (and in some cases, must be) a part of your career.
Head to Google and search for “journal education [your discipline]“, like “journal education math” or “journal education history”. Those of you in Philosophy will have to work a little harder since “education philosophy” is usually about philosophies of education, not how to teach philosophy. Find a journal, peer-reviewed if possible, that publishes research about how people teach and learn your field.
Find an interesting article and write a short blog post about it. It doesn’t have to be a detailed summary you’d present at your group’s Journals Club. Instead, make it the story you’d tell to your roommate or significant other. Be sure to include a link to the article so that anyone who’s interested can follow up. If you need a refresher on how to add links to your post, watch the blogging video I made a while back.
If you get inspired by this, we can help you initiate some TAR in your Summer Session class. The same skills you’re acquiring to conduct research in your discipline can be used in the classroom to study how people learn your discipline.
It was interesting to hear you talk about the videos you might show to your students. Like I stressed in class, one key to using video (or audio or computer simulations) is preparing the students for watching it.
Think about the rich conversation and discussion you want to lead after watching the video. What do the students need, to be prepared to engage in and contribute to that conversation? That’s what you need to prompt them to watch for. I don’t mean prompt them by telling them outcome of the conversation you’ll have. Instead, help them notice the events in the video that are the basis for that conversation.
For example, in the Paul Hewitt “Archimedes Principle” video, I would not say
Notice the buoyant force is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced
That’s what I want us to discover/realize by the end of our follow-up conversation and lesson. Instead, I might say
Watch the needles on the scales. Try to write down their readings before and after the demonstration.
Hmm, I might even pause the video at 0:49 to point out what I mean.
(Starting at 0:28, I swear he says, “That support force, we have a name for it. It begins with beer.”)
Let me say it again: What do your students need to notice in the video/audio/simulation to be prepared to have the rich, follow-up conversation? (These are likely things you see unconsciously through your expert eyes.) Prompt them to watch for these events.
Behind the Scenes
Once upon a time, I gave a 45-minute lecture on “Alternatives to Lecture.” My brain didn’t explode from the sad irony of that until after class. So now, I’m thinking very hard about making the lesson more interactive. That’s why we actually did some of the alternatives to lecture, like watching the Paul Hewitt video and doing the astronomy worksheet. Still a lot of me talking, though. I’ll work on that…
Here are the slides I used. As ever, they’re under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial (CC-BY-NC) license.
This week’s SGTS Practical Sessions, on Wednesday, May 15 or Friday, May 17, will be about writing learning outcomes (LOs). We’ll give you a quick reminder about what they look like, some advice for organizing and monitoring your LOs, and some resources to help get you writing. Then, you’ll have a chance to write a few and get feedback.
Writing learning outcomes is hard work because they force you to think very carefully about what you want the students to get out your course. And by “get”, I mean, what do students have to do to demonstrate to you (and to themselves) that they understand each concept you’re teaching?
Please bring any exams, homework and other assessments that you have for the course you’ll be teaching. These don’t have to be paper copies – bring whatever format works for you.
If you don’t have any materials from previous versions of the course, draft a couple of questions you might ask on the final exam.
Grab a coffee (or something cold) and sit and think for half an hour: What are your course-level learning outcomes? That is, what are the Big Picture outcomes for the course? My physics friends dream about things like, “recognize the presence of physics in your everyday life” and “understand the nature of scientific inquiry.” Those aren’t things you can teach in 1 day or test with 1 question. Instead, you have to support the goal with (many) individual topic-level LOs. You might end up with 3 or 4 course-level goals supported by, and supporting, 50-100 topic-level goals.Spoiler alert: you won’t write all 100 topic-level LOs in the session this week.
The reason we’re asking you to bring exams and homework is because the questions should be closely tied to the learning outcomes: For every LO that says, “You will be able to do X” there’s a matching exam question “Do X.”