TTaDA offers a number of resources to help you design new courses more effectively, as well as improve existing courses. Our team has broad experience bringing pedagogical principles into campus classrooms, blended classes, and fully online courses.
We suggest that faculty use the Backwards Course Design model (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) when designing or redesigning a course, whether that course is a lecture, discussion or lab. In the backward design process faculty structure student learning based upon assessments that are intentionally designed to provide evidence that students have achieved the course goals.
To help you with designing your course please complete the Course Design Matrix.
Whether designing a new course or preparing to redesign an existing course, you will find it helpful to begin your preparation by clearly defining what you expect your students to have learned by the end of your course or section. You can then put together course materials, assessments and activities that align with your chosen objectives.
Before writing objectives, begin by considering the topic and level of the course, and ask:
- What is the most important information students should learn and remember from this course?
- What are the most important ideas that students should know/understand after taking this course?
- What are the most important skills that students should develop in the course?
- What is the most important thing that students should be able to do after completing this course.
The answer to these questions are your learning objectives and can be organized around one or more of these:
- Remember – retrieve knowledge from long-term memory
- Understand – construct meaning by interpreting, classifying, summarizing, inferring and comparing knowledge
- Apply – perform a familiar or unfamiliar task using knowledge
- Analyze – differentiate, organize and attribute knowledge
- Evaluate – judge and critique knowledge
- Create – generate and produce new knowledge
Bloom's Taxonomy provides a list action verbs to help in writing course goals.
Once you have identified the most important learning outcomes for your course, you are ready to assemble the means that will best support your goals. In doing so, you will want to focus on three questions:
- How will you assess that the students have met the learning objectives? The answer(s) to this question will be the basis for your grading structure, as well as the format and content of graded exams, homework, and projects.
- What assignments (papers, problem sets, projects) and experiences (discussions, labs, field trips, collaborative activities) will give students the opportunity to reinforce the information and ideas of the course, as well as practice key skills?
- What materials (textbooks, articles, lecture content) do students need access to in order to achieve your learning outcomes? Choose your reading and resource list based on the quality of the information, ideas, and training provided, and use classroom time to fill in the gaps between your goals and the content of those readings/ resources.
The next step is to select the specific readings, lecture and discussion content, class activities, practice assignments, and graded assignments that will make up your course. You can weed through the course materials already prepared by previous instructors of similar courses, with an eye for those materials that best meet your goals.