Today we launched a new teaching award in my school that will provide more support and aid for faculty groups or individuals to redesign a course or course sequence. Technology may have increased the availability of knowledge, but it has only made critical thinking, analysis and the development of our students more important. Technology makes course design more important than ever before, but it also creates new opportunities for rethinking the sequence of learning events.
Most of us have become very good at course delivery, but few of us have had training in course design. We could get by when course design meant selecting some content and a textbook, but it is more complicated now. According to the most recent student poll in the Almanac of Higher Education, students want instructors to make more us of course management systems, integrated use of laptops during class, online collaboration tools (like Google docs) and free online course content (like the Khan Academy). If that sounds like a lot of work, it is, but improved course design is key to making our institutions better. This proposal is designed to help faculty find the time both to gain expertise and to develop better courses.
Since innovation and risk need to be encouraged, student course evaluations from the first two semesters of the new course will not be included in our merit or tenure decisions. You will note that some other “robust measure of success” will be required (also know as assessment), so hopefully this will encourage innovation in courses design and better assessment practices. I am also offering up to $10,000 in financial support (including teaching relief) per proposal, but I can think of other incentives (fewer preparations, staff or TA support, perhaps) that might work where other funding is not available. I offer the entire set of guidelines below to any dean, provost or CTL director who wants to borrow the idea. (This is a model. Not an actual call for proposals outside of Meadows School faculty.)
WHO? Any FT or regular faculty member may submit a proposal. Some priority will be given to groups where more than one person delivers the same course or departments who envision larger projects (like the redesign of an entire sequence.)
WHAT? A typical proposal might include teaching relief or summer stipend plus support (new technology, a visiting consultant, internal support, conference travel, or books). I will be available directly to support these projects as needed. I highly recommend including this online course on course design as part of the process (and budget) http://www.deefinkandassociates.com/index.php/onlinecourse/.
To encourage innovation and risk, student course evaluations from the first two semesters of the new course will NOT be included in merit or tenure decisions. They will be available only to the involved faculty. Part of the project, however, should be to create a more robust measure of success. How will we know if the new design is working? Faculty will have wide latitude here, but examples might include higher retention in the program, better performance in a subsequent class, better performance in year-end juries, higher scores on a rubric, or something entirely different, but there must be some form of assessment.
HOW? Read Dee Fink’s (2004) short (and free) self-directed guide for designing courses for significant learning.
Proposals should be brief and identify
(1) the course or sequence, the number of students and the need (What is the problem? How could students be better served?)
(2) which faculty will be involved
(3) the course learning objectives
(4) what a redesign might look like (very generally, what is the idea?)
(5) a budget and what support will be needed
(6) a schedule for when this will happen
(7) what assessment measure might be used to gage success (this is not binding!) and
(8) chair approval (this can come as a separate evaluation of all departmental projects)
A. You may propose a redesign of any regularly offered courses, but there will be some priority given to entry-level, high enrollment, or frequently offered courses. These grants are not intended only to support technology or technology-driven courses, although new uses of technology are also encouraged.
B. Involved faculty must agree to continue offering the course at least three more times. New pedagogies will take practice. You can tinker with the delivery, but unless it is a disaster, we will encourage sticking with it until we know if it is the design or the delivery.
C. The department must view this as a course of continuing importance in the curriculum and agree that all faculty who teach this course over the next three years will maintain a consistent use of these learning outcomes and this course design. (Again, if something is not working, the redesign can continue to be improved, but there needs to be a consistency of intent.)