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Course Outlines

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[edit] Course Outlines

The major goal of a course outline is to organize, in a coherent fashion, the content of a course. The exercise of developing a course outline allows you to order all the elements and information related to the course in the actual sequence in which it will be given to the students. The outline is actually a digest of the objectives of the course and the means proposed to achieve them. The outline should be regarded as a contract between you and your students and should thus be followed as rigidly as possible. It presents the engagement that you propose regarding the content of the course and states your strategies for delivering the content.

A course outline should minimally include the following elements:

  • the major overall goal of the course
  • the different specific objectives of the course
  • a schedule of activities which presents the breakdown of the topics covered during the semester
  • pedagogy/teaching methods to be used: lecture, discussion, laboratory, field trips, etc.
  • readings related to each class, required and optional
  • methods of evaluation, dates and weights attached to each

Once you have established your course outline, consider having a colleague look it over and react. Here are a few questions that might help you to assess your outline.

  • Is there enough material to challenge the students intellectually and sustain their interest?
  • Is it flexible? Coherent?
  • Is there a separation of major and minor points?
  • Will students be able to distinguish the major themes?
  • Will students emerge not only with more information, but with new skills and capabilities as well?
  • Will students be well aware of the inevitable trade-off and compromises between theory and practice, when it comes to practical applications of this theory?
  • Does it raise intellectual barriers? If it is too focused, and the students think that is all they need to know, they will not learn all the other material they would normally be exposed to when searching for themselves.
  • Is the language used gender neutral?

The Undergraduate Calendar states:

“At the beginning of each course, students will be advised in writing of the proposed manner in which evaluation will be carried out in each course. A student is expected to attend all lectures, discussion groups, seminars and laboratory periods of the courses in which they are registered. Instructors must inform their students about the relationship between attendance and their course grades early in each session. This should be indicated on the course outline and on the Composition of Grade Sheet, which shall be deposited with the appropriate Dean no later than the last date for course change. Instructors shall include in course outlines, the date for withdrawal without academic penalty and the date by which they may expect to receive notification of 15 percent of their final grade.

At the same time, students shall be advised in writing of the assignments required of them in each course and the due dates of such assignments.

Any penalties to be levied for late submission of an assignment must be transmitted to students in writing well before the due date of the assignment. To obtain standing in a course a student must complete the necessary term work, tests and final examination, where the latter is required, to the satisfaction of the Department/Centre. Details concerning how this will affect the final grade must be communicated to the student before the last date for deposition of grading schemes. Students should be informed that the rounding of their roughly computed score to arrive at a final grade which complies with the 0, 2, 5, 8 marking scheme shall be at the instructor's discretion. Marks may be rounded either up or down between any pair, and need not necessarily be rounded to the closest number ending in 0, 2, 5 or 8.”

[edit] Some example wording that informs students about Brock policies:

[edit] Accommodations Policy:

As part of Brock University’s commitment to a respectful work and learning environment, the University will make every reasonable effort to accommodate all members of the University community with disabilities. If you require academic accommodations related to a documented disability to participate in this course, you are encouraged to contact the Student Development Centre Services for Students with Disabilities (4th Floor, Schmon Tower, Ext. 3240) and also to discuss any accommodations with the professor/instructor well in advance of due dates and scheduled assessments.

[edit] Respect Policy:

Brock University is committed to building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive community where our students, staff, faculty, course participants, volunteers and visitors can work and learn in an environment that respects the dignity and worth of members of the Brock Community. Each individual has the right to participate, learn and work in an environment that promotes equal opportunities and prohibits all forms of harassment and discrimination. Each individual has the responsibility for his/her own behaviour and actions and for recognizing and supporting the right of all individuals to dignity at work and study and to maintain an environment in which this can flourish.

[edit] Academic Integrity Statement:

Academic integrity is a core value of the academic mission of Brock University, and is defined as the pursuit of knowledge and scholarship through the provision of academic programs and a learning environment of the highest quality. It is in the interest of the University’s academic mission that every student adheres to the highest standards of scholarly integrity. As such, academic dishonesty is taken seriously: engaging in behaviours that are in breach of, or otherwise seek to abuse the University’s academic policy will not be tolerated.

[edit] Course Objectives

Course Objectives Instructional objectives are explicit statements describing in concrete terms what students are expected to learn or be able to do (how you expect them to change) as a result of instruction. It is important that a logical link exist between the educational objectives, the delivery of the course, and the evaluation of students during and at the end of the course. Objectives are operational statements that refer to concrete and precise learning behaviours. These behaviours have been categorized into different domains: the cognitive, affective (attitudes and values) and psychomotor (motor and perceptual skills). Bloom's (1956) taxonomy refers to the cognitive domain; Krathwohl (1964) has described a taxonomy related to the affective domain, and EJ. Simpson (1965-1966) presents taxonomy for the psychomotor domain. Because of the limited space in this document and because university education is largely concerned with attaining cognitive objectives, the focus here will be on presenting cognitive objectives of instruction and more specifically those described by J.S. Bloom.

[edit] Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

Bloom views educational objectives as on a scale ranging from simple, concrete behaviour through complex, more abstract behaviour. The lowest-level cognitive objective would be the acquisition of knowledge. The words associated with each level are useful in STATING or FORMULATING and PRESENTING your objective at that cognitive level. Thus knowledge acquisition could be demonstrated if a student could engage in behaviours such as listing, naming, stating, defining, etc. A higher-level objective is to comprehend what is learned. Understanding or comprehension can be (stated by the professor or) demonstrated by the student who can engage in behaviours such as paraphrasing, extrapolating, explaining, distinguishing. (Refer below for the hierarchical set of cognitive objectives proposed by Bloom).

The Bloom's Wheel, according to the Bloom's verbs and matching assessment types. The verbs are all feasible and measurable.
The Bloom's Wheel, according to the Bloom's verbs and matching assessment types. The verbs are all feasible and measurable.
    • evaluate
    • justify
    • critique
    • appraise
    • design
    • order
    • develop
    • create
    • summarize
    • combine
    • propose
    • separate
    • recognize
    • test
    • differentiate
    • solve
    • choose
    • classify
    • use
    • interpret
    • calculate
    • relate
    • demonstrate
    • paraphrase
    • compute
    • extrapolate
    • describe
    • explain
    • distinguish
    • list
    • name
    • state
    • define
    • identify
    • match
    • recall

These objectives should not be selected haphazardly. Rather, Bloom postulates a hierarchy among them as illustrated. Thus it is necessary to know and understand before one can apply, analyze or synthesize, etc. It is important that students achieve success at the lower levels in order to attain the succeeding levels. Objectives can be written for any level of cognitive function. When establishing your objectives, it is good practice to keep in mind that an objective has three components: it should identify and name the behaviour sought; it should also define the circumstances under which the behaviour is to occur; and finally, it should define the level of acceptable performance. For instance, compare the two following statements of possible course objectives:

  • The student will be able to demonstrate a sound knowledge of basic research methods.
  • Given the method and results of an experiment, the student will be able to formulate valid conclusions and specify the assumptions needed to make these conclusions.

The first is vague and general. What is "sound knowledge"? How will the student "demonstrate"? Which research methods are referred to? What cognitive level is implied?

The second objective is written in concrete, observable terms and states the conditions under which the behaviour is to occur. It is clear that the objective requires the higher-order conceptual cognitive functions of application, analysis, and synthesis. Formulating clear objectives requires effort, but it will result in better teaching and learning. It is often helpful to discuss your course objectives with a colleague. Assistance in preparing and/or reviewing your course objectives is also available from the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies. Particular teaching methods are suited to achieving certain objectives better than others. For example, lectures are most effective for achieving learning at the lower end of the taxonomy-knowledge and comprehension, while discussion or other interactive teaching methods tend to be better for the achievement of higher-order objectives including application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Your choice of teaching method should reflect as much as possible the level of thinking and learning at which you want students to be engaged.

A common question is "How many objectives should I set for my course?" The experts do not agree on the ideal number, but a general guideline seems to be that the appropriate number of objectives depends on the subject matter and on the level of the course. Introductory courses, as well as advanced courses that have a very structured content, require detailed objectives and may need six to eight objectives per lecture hour. Courses that have open content, such as courses that require higher-order cognitive function, may need no more than six to eight objectives for the entire course. In the latter case, the stated objectives may not be an exhaustive list, but may be examples of the kinds of things students are expected to be able to do at the end of the course.

[edit] Expressing Learning Outcomes

[1]WHAT ARE THE MAJOR TOPICS IN THIS COURSE? Create a thematic structure for the course.

  • Identify the 3-7 major ideas, topics, or themes in the course.
  • Place them in an appropriate sequence.
  • If possible, these should build on one another and result in a culminating project that, integrates the ideas, topics, or themes.

[2] For many lecturers in Further Education, syllabus content will already be expressed in competence-framework terms, including learning outcomes, performance criteria and range statements. However, many such frameworks have been written primarily for awarding bodies, bureaucrats and lecturers rather than in language that students themselves can understand and make use of. The following suggestions may help you to extend the benefits of expressing and clarifying learning outcomes to your students, and to the assessment schemes you devise to assess their achievements.

  • Collect examples of ways that other people express, learning outcomes. For. example, look for learning outcomes close to your own field as expressed In other universities, and in Open University modules. You may often find that other people. Have already done much of the work In converting a list of topics into well-explained learning outcomes, which you can adapt or adopt in your own course.
  • Work out exactly what you want students to be able to do by the end of a defined learning element. You may well have been trained to do this as part of the process of making lesson plans, and you may well be working with syllabus content that is already' expressed in terms of learning outcomes or objectives. Nevertheless, it is often worth thinking again about the exact intentions, and working out how these connect together for different parts of students' learning,

Express learning outcomes in terms of actions. Try to explain what lies behind phrases such as 'will be able to understand ... ,' or 'will know .....” The words you choose' to describe learning outcomes should be such that students themselves are enabled to tell exactly what the intentions are.

  • Don't write too many learning outcomes. One of the dangers of trying to express syllabus content in terms of learning outcomes is that it is dangerously easy for the some of the outcomes to be trivial ones, even when they are things that students are required’ to be able to do.

Don't be too prescriptive. Rather than spell out learning outcomes in an attempt to describe everything that students should become able to do, it is worth keeping Some of the outcomes more generic, and illustrating them with a 'for example' rider, rather than spelling out all the possibilities. This, allows you to bring in more 'for examples .... ‘as you think of them, as you work with students.

  • Work out the associated evidence. Think about how students will be required to demonstrate their achievement of the learning outcomes in terms of what they will be able to use to show that they

have succeeded. ,_ Don't overdo the evidence! There is wide agreement that students tend to be over-assessed, and that they are required to produce too much evidence to demonstrate each particular element of competence. It is better to choose the most appropriate kinds of evidence carefully, than to list at the possible kinds of evidence which may relate to each learning outcome, Work out performance criteria. Decide how students' actions and evidence can be judged and assessed. Formulate these criteria in words that can be understood by students themselves. rather than phrasing them in the sorts of academic language that are too often present already in published syllabus specifications or competence-based frameworks. Work out descriptions to help students see how much evidence, and what kinds of evidence they need. These are sometimes called 'range statements" and the intention is to help students know what they need to do in terms of extent and standards to meet performance criteria, and to demonstrate that they have achieved learning outcomes. Provide students with the whole picture. Put the student-centred language descriptions of learning outcomes. Performance criteria and range indicators into student handbooks, or turn them into a short self-.contained leaflet to give to students at the beginning of the course. Where the contents Ire based on published specifications (such as those for GNVQ and so on), include the original specifications as an Appendix, so that students can see where the details have been derived from. This leaflet or handbook component should serve students as a map enabling them to navigate their own way through the learning programme as they study. Ensure that students don't reel swamped by the enormity of the whole picture While it is important to provide the picture (as explained above), there is a danger that the picture can appear very daunting. Especially It the beginning of a course, Students need to be guided carefully through the picture in ways that allow them to feel confident that they will be able to succeed a step at a time.

  • Where possible, provide alternatives. Rather than requiring students to demonstrate their achievement of each part of the competence framework separately, look for tasks 'which embrace a number of different learning outcomes and performance criteria at the same time, so that students' work, and your assessment of it, will not go into overload.
  • Select learning outcomes, performance criteria and 80 on, and relate them to individual class sessions. Relate them similarly to cacl1 studet1tassignment, and each learning task. Students need to know how each thing they are doing fits into the overall picture of their course or module.Don't concentrate on learning outcomes to the exclusion of learning processes. The processes dimension gives the added value to learning outcomes. Paying increased attention to the processes increases the probability of the learning outcomes being achieved in ways that are flexible and transferable. Don’t be put off the learning outcomes approach by all the bad examples that are around. I the fact that many published outcomes-based schemes are in existence, where the outcomes are badly phrased; or simplistic; ambiguous, does not mean that the approach is an ineffective one. Put the learning outcomes to use.
  • Don't leave them fossilising in the course validation documentation or the student handbook. Tell students about which outcomes they are working towards in each lecture tutorial, and assignment. The learning outcomes are devised for the benefit of students, and need to be made to work well as part of bow they find out exactly what they should be trying to achieve. Make sure that students know when they have achieved learning outcomes, and can recognise them as things they have added to their range of skills, and can build on them. It is also useful to explain to employers about the use of learning outcomes, illustrating them with relevant examples, and listening to suggestions that employers may offer about additional things that could be included as learning outcomes.

[edit] The Calendar

Once all of the planning outlined above has been completed, you are finally ready to take out a calendar. But not just any calendar: start with the university’s academic calendar so that while planning you can take all the university holidays into consideration.More than one professor has been frustrated weeks into a course after realizing that a lecture had been planned for an unexpected university holiday, or that the term ended a few days earlier than expected. Now that the calendar is out, creative thinking about your course can take a new turn. Using your original learning goals list, map out a logical progression of knowledge and skills building over the course of the academic term. As a clear pattern emerges and you add the course content and developmental assignment structure onto the calendar, see if you can break down each week of the course into themes that will support your learning goals. This will help the students understand the trajectory of your course even better.

[1]The plan or design of all good courses provide for both differentiation and integration of learning.

  • The differentiation can be reflected in:
  • Variety in the type of learning activities from day-to-day, within each topical block of time.
  • Development in the complexity and challenge of the learning from week 1 to 12.
  • The integration should be reflected both within each topical unit of time and in the progression through each of the topical units.
  • At the conclusion of this process, you should be ready to layout a week-by-week schedule of activities for the whole term. As you do this, there is a helpful sequence of questions to ask:
  • What activities need to come first, i.e., how should the course begin?
  • What activities do you want to conclude with, i.e., how should the course end?
  • What should the sequence of activities be in the middle of the course?
  • Developing the design or plan for the course is very important. It is also important, though, to remember that it is only a plan. Like all plans, it needs to be flexible and subject to change as it is implemented.

[edit] Checklist of Effective Course Design Components

I: Instructor Information: besides name & contact information, how about…

  • Teaching philosophy? (your approach to course instruction)
  • Your availability?
  • Can students e-mail you on the weekend and expect a reply?
  • Do you want students to use the learning management system or Brock e-mail?
  • How often is e-mail checked and what is a reasonable return rate?
  • Team teaching?
  • Who are your TAs/course support people and where are they located? Ie. course coordinators/library support specialists/administrative assistants?
  • What are the TA’s roles and responsibilities? E.g. “The teaching assistants and I adopt a team-based approach to supporting and assessing your learning. Please consult with your TA regarding questions relating to course assignments, grading etc…”
  • What is your commitment to the students in your course?
  • What do you expect students to commit to you?
  • Will you include student codes of conduct or share with students expectations surrounding confidentiality (with other student information; expectations regarding professionalism and establishing positive and risk-free learning environments)

II. Course Information:

  • What is the course calendar description? (what did you originally promise to deliver?)
  • Course goals/objectives
  • What do you want to accomplish? What do you want students to learn?
  • What will students be able to do upon completion of the course?
  • Topics, sequencing and themes
  • What are the essential topics? LESS IS MORE…
  • In what order will they be encountered? List dates, etc…
  • How are they linked or connected?
  • What is the relationship between this course and others in the program? Why are there prerequisites or co-requisites and what is the connection?

III. Course Materials:

  • What are the students responsible for in terms of readings, texts, films, etc?
  • What is required reading and which ones are recommended?
  • Are there supplementary resources or resources on reserve?
  • Have you allowed sufficient time for all students to access reserve materials?

IV. Instructional Strategies:

  • What is your instructional approach in lectures and seminars?
  • Is there an expectation that students will be participatory in the lecture setting?
  • What active learning techniques will be used? Eg. “Students will be required to engage in debate and participatory exercises designed to…”
  • What is the format for seminars/labs?
  • Technology:
  • e.g. Do you use the learning management system and to what purpose? Is there an expectation for participation?

V: Assessment and Evaluation:

  • Student assessment:
  • How will you know when the teaching and learning goals have been accomplished?
  • Do the assessment activities respond to the original goals? Ie. Are you testing what you are teaching?
  • Are the tests for evaluation purposes only or also for teaching?
  • Are the assignments equally distributed in terms of timing and weight distribution?
  • Are the assignments equally distributed according to type of evaluation and levels of knowledge/analysis/application?
  • When are the exams held and what format will they take?
  • What materials will be allowed in exams?
  • Clear criteria:
  • Do the students know how they will be evaluated for each piece of work?
  • How will course participation be assessed?
  • What is the relation between participation and attendance?
  • What are the timelines/deadlines/penalties submission and for returning assessed work to the students?
  • Course/Instructor assessment/evaluation (student feedback):
  • Will students have an opportunity to provide feedback on the course before the end of the course? (formative?)
  • Will you provide an opportunity to share this feedback with the class and discuss how changes may be made?

Note: Students also require time learning about the purpose of a course outline, its contractual nature and its importance in guiding learning. Some instructors might include questions about the course outline on the tests or exam. It is an integral part of the course and should be valued as guiding document. This means instructors must spend time discussing with students the various components of the outline and the ways in which they are integrated.

Some instructors opt to circulate an abbreviated version at the beginning of class, moving to the fuller, more detailed version as the course begins to develop. Concept maps can also be helpful in graphically portraying the key content areas of a course and the associated objectives and evaluative pieces.

[edit] Assessment & Evaluation

Evaluating students' learning is difficult both for you and your students. You must design a test or exam that will measure student performance within the bounds of the objectives established at the beginning of the course. Students will prepare themselves according to those predetermined objectives and will try to anticipate your demand. Therefore, you will need valid and reliable information if you want to evaluate your students' performance accurately.

  • FOR EACH GENERAL GOAL specified, what information can you gather that will tell you and each student how well he or she is achieving that goal? Or how well the whole class is learning?
  • For which goals are paper/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?

[edit] Measuring Goals and Objectives

Essentially, classroom measurement is aimed at evaluating how students are responding to the content of the course, how they understand the material, to what extent they can generalize the concepts, or other instructional objectives.

[edit] Types of Assessment

[edit] One Minute Paper
[edit] Classroom Assessment Techniques
[edit] Assignment and Exam Design
[edit] Exam/Test Construction

Before constructing the exam or test, it is a good practice to go over the objectives of the course and the kinds of information and skills emphasized in the course. The exam or test should reflect both the objectives and the content covered. At the beginning of the course, students should be made aware of the style(s) of exams they will be given and how often. There are certain criteria you can use in constructing a "good" exam. These criteria can help you organize the exam so that you will be able to gather the information needed to evaluate your students based on your predetermined objectives.

The criteria are the following:

  • validity: does the test measure the objectives it is supposed to measure?
  • reliability: does the test provide the same results each time it is used? Are the items on the test related to one another?
  • discriminatory: will the test be able to discriminate between students who have mastered the material and those who have not?
  • triviality: are the items being evaluated only tangentially related to the central points of the course content?

Keeping these criteria in mind, you may want to refer to the different domains of instructional objectives for elaborating your questions. Once you have written your questions, classify them by category in order to identify the level of thought generated by the questions. Sometimes a slight change might produce a question which will require from students a higher level of thought.

A possible classification:

  • memory: recall or recognition of information
  • translation: deciphering symbols or technical language
  • interpretation: discerning relationships among facts, generalizations, definitions, values and skills
  • application: ability to generalize notions, concepts and theories in order to solve problems
  • analysis: breaking down a problem with conscious use of defined forms of thinking
  • synthesis: solving problems by deduction
  • evaluation: judging alternative answers or options according to standards
[edit] =Tips and General Guidelines for Constructing an Exam=

The following additional tips and general guidelines may help you in constructing an exam or test:

  • Leave spaces between questions; the visual layout of an exam may confuse students.
  • The amount of space you leave to answer an open question will be interpreted by students as the length of the answer you want.
  • Determine acceptable answers to the exam before it is administered.
  • Classify the questions according to what they require of the students.
  • Short-answer questions help test information recall.
  • Essay-type questions allow students to organize, evaluate and think.
  • Multiple choice exams can measure recall and concept application.
  • Completion questions test for recognition.
  • Essay exams should be designed as a learning experience, not for evaluating endurance.
  • At the end of each lecture, and each section, write out questions which you feel are appropriate. By the end of the course you will have all the questions you require.

Exam Checklist (Marincovich, 1987) [3]

√ Do the questions reflect your goals for the course?

√ Do the questions reflect what the students can reasonably be expected to be prepared for?

√ Is the exam of reasonable length?

√ Are the directions and the format clear and well-organized? Is the weight for each question clearly stated?

√ Is an answer dependent upon being able to respond correctly to a prior question?

√ Does the exam begin with questions that will build rather than undermine student confidence?

√ Are the problems interesting?

√ Have you had a colleague read through the exam?

[edit] Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity is a core value of the academic mission of Brock University, and is defined as the pursuit of knowledge and scholarship through the provision of academic programs and a learning environment of the highest quality. It is in the interest of the University’s academic mission that every student adheres to the highest standards of scholarly integrity. As such, academic dishonesty is taken seriously: engaging in behaviours that are in breach of, or otherwise seek to abuse the University's academic policy will not be tolerated.

Best Practices for Faculties Administrative

Clear policy and consistent policy (process) administration. E.g., Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and Social Sciences. Establish working Academic Integrity Committees. Membership should include:

Associate Dean (as Chair) Academic Integrity Officer Dept. Chairs Faculty Undergraduate and Graduate Student Representative. Faculties should meet (once each term) to share information regarding Academic Integrity issues.

Course Syllabi could include:

An Academic Integrity statement. Clear unambiguous assignment expectations. Expectations regarding group work and collaboration. Contact information for instructor, teaching assistants, lab demonstrators, or anyone else that the student may need to communicate with as function of participating in the course. Instructors should:

Clearly state their expectations with regard to coursework. Provide a supportive interpersonal approach to discussion. Provide feedback in a manner that is timely, and relevant for improvement of performance. Challenge students to present ideas creatively within the conventions of their academic discipline. Curriculum

Should include Academic Integrity concepts. Should consider how content relates to the learning outcomes, instructional strategies and assessment protocols. Promotes Critical Thinking Encourages students to think about ideas and language in different ways. Challenges students to understand the role of ideas and language in defining people, society, theory, etc. Challenges students to question assumptions. Assessment

Clearly defined expectations regarding group work assignments (e.g., guidelines for record keeping and accountability). Think about what students are doing and why they are doing it. Consider revision (of essay assignments) as an assessment tool.

Things to Consider: • What factors in students’ lives contribute to cheating? • What factors in the assignments you have chosen lend themselves to cheating? Could your assignments be re-phrased, re-timed, re-sequenced? • Can you build in more, or remove some, constraints? • What other ways might you assess the particular knowledge, competency or skill set? • Have your students been taught how to do the skills being assessed? Have they had opportunity for practice and feedback? • Visit your school’s teaching and learning centre!

[edit] Assessment-based Tips in Support of Academic Integrity

by Maureen Connolly <>

The following suggestions are organized into minimal planning, more planning and significantly more planning in terms of their pre-course set-up demands.

[edit] Minimal Planning

Require an equivalent number of refereed articles to internet sources (e.g. for every internet or popular source, there must be an equal number of refereed journal and/or text sources).

Require a justification of sources(e.g. provide the ranking for the internet sources and/or legitimate criteria; these can be obtained from a librarian and can be included in the course outline) as part of the assignment.

Require a single page outline/plan of the assignment which provides sources, reasoning, key concepts, main points, strategies; 5% of assignment grade; due 2 weeks before assignment. You and the student each keep a copy.

Encourage the use of Google Scholar rather than Google; check with your librarian about search tools.

Include in your course outline your commitment(s) to them and the course, and what you expect or anticipate as their commitment(s) to you (c.f. /pdf/Letter_To_My_Students.pdf)

Require submission of a folder of ALL work, rather than just the Final Paper

[edit] More Planning
  • Assignments can be assessed in class by a jury or a panel with criteria established ahead of time—especially in partner or group work.
  • “Out-basket” assignments, solo or partner or group; 24-48 hour roll-over

Build-in unusual constraints; e.g. cannot exceed three pages; must include three references from the course text or materials; must include 3 paraphrased sections from the course text or materials; cannot use passive voice; and so on Evidence-based tracking of investment/participation over time (especially partner/group work)

  • Question- or problem-based assignments rather than topics
[edit] Significantly More Planning

You and your TAs must be consistent with feedback and availability; requires discussion or norming sessions for content and timing.

Rubrics, which describe requirements for various grade levels

Iterations or drafts of the same assignment, which build on:

  1. previous feedback
  2. new/unfolding material from lectures
  3. increasing sophistication in levels of analysis/application
  • Service-based and/or non-text based assignments (e.g. concept maps, drama, models, cartoons, letters, …)
  • In-class (or in-seminar/lab) practice of skills which will be assessed in assignments and exams, especially extraction of information, distinguishing, prediction, sequencing, …
    • Open book or in-class assignments (or handwritten “cheat sheets”);
    • Group-based multiple choice with rationale;
    • Question creation; question deconstruction;
    • Case Studies or examples (good and bad);
    • Use of the on-line environment

[edit] Grading

Develop your grading system.

  • It should reflect the full range of learning goals and activities. (Remember: you do NOT have to grade everything.)
  • The relative weight of each item on the course grade should reflect the relative importance of that activity.

Assigning a grade is for some professors the most difficult task related to their teaching responsibility, since a certain amount of subjectivity is always part of the grading process. Because marks are very important to students, it is important to make a constant effort to be fair, honest and reasonable when assigning a grade. Marks should be a source of motivation and productivity for students. There are certain practices that you may consider adopting in order to facilitate the task of assessing your students. These practices will also benefit your students.

  • Incorporate your evaluation procedures into the course outline.
  • Discuss the evaluation methods with your assistant or colleagues.
  • Decide on policies for missed or failed midterms and late assignments.
  • Keep accurate records of your students' performance during the semester.
  • Clearly state the extenuating circumstances under which a student will be allowed to rewrite an alternate exam if s/he misses one.

Marks can be a source of motivation and reinforcement for your students. The following tips may help you in your task serving as a guide for marking your students' papers or essay exams.

  • Write comments judiciously and legibly in the margins or append a note.
  • Offer enough information so students can do better the next time.
  • Mark papers on content, organization and style.
  • Mark all papers one question at a time.
  • Budget your time equitably when correcting papers
  • If you know whose copy you are marking, guard against any bias.
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