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Achieving Teaching Efficiency by Aligning Course Goals, Learning Objectives and Assessments


Hi this is Ann Marie VanDerZanden and I’m the Director for the Center for
Excellence in Learning and Teaching and also a faculty member in the
Horticulture Department here at Iowa State University The session I am going to do today is, “Achieving Teaching Efficiency by Aligning Course
Goals, Learning Objectives, and Assessments” A little bit about the
presentation First I want to talk about how I got here;
then, I’ll talk about and constructive alignment Then, I will talk about some of the results
that I have found in using constructive alignment So, I don’t know about you but at the beginning of the semester sometimes I feel very much like this I have had all these great ideas of things that I want to do in my class but that I haven’t taken the time or I
haven’t been able to find the time to make those changes classes are about to start and trying to
put my syllabus together and for lack of being able to really sit down and revamp my course I kind of go with the syllabus that I had before what I found a couple of years ago
is that I have been teaching the same class for about 15 years and a small change here and there didn’t seem like that big of a deal but over the course of time those changes
really started to add up and I really wasn’t teaching towards
those learning objectives that I had for the class so as a result of that I spent some time
some additional background work and I came across the concept of
constructive alignment and now it is familiar to many people – but to me it was a fairly new idea so constructive alignment really starts with thinking about your end goal first and then working towards that – and so the end goal and when it comes to teaching would be
you’re learning objectives so that the red triangle so start with
you learning objectives from there you go to the green triangle which is assessment and evaluation so how are you going to evaluate students what type of exams, homeworks those types of things that you will do in new your course and then third place that you think about are the teaching and learning
strategies which turned purple triangle [pause] so often times what I find
is faculty think the content they think about how they’re going to do
the teaching — then they think about what’s going to be on the exams or the
quizzes and then hopefully in if everything
works out right it will map up to learning objectives
and you’ll be able to achieve this learning objectives. The idea
with constructive alignment is really to start with the learning objectives in
mind and then work forward from there to
come up with what you’re going to do for assignment
sequences and the like — and then how you actually going to do the teaching so just an example from my course – I wanted talk a little bit about my overall
course learning outcome then what my course objectives were and then kind of the process that I went through so you can see in a real specific way how I implemented in my course and
hopefully give you ideas on how you might be able to implement it in your course as well so HORT 481
is the course that I teach in the course learning outcomes is quite broad and it has a lot of different components that feed into that so the areas that are underlined: so
creating a functional and aesthetic landscape design being able to complete site measurement, being able to do use hand-based and computer drawing techniques and students will also be able to
clearly and fully articulate their design concepts — so all of those together are like I said, “quite broad” and relate to the overall learning outcome – now I can break that down in this particular course: four specific
learning objectives – so one learning objective is to demonstrate
skills associated with creating landscape designs the other is to accurately measure a landscape and document field information – the third is demonstrate proficiency in computer-aided design and then the
fourth is practicing and refining written and oral communication of design concepts – so each one of these learning objectives is relatively small
it’s also finite and very measurable and that’s the
key with writing good learning objectives is it needs to be
something you can measure so for example number two — accurately
measure a landscape site and document field information I pretty quickly will know when
whether or not they were able to measure the site correctly the and get the
necessary information if their measurements are off then
the design will probably won’t fit on the property so that’s something that I can measure and know whether or not they have achieved it One of the things I did when I was working on this constructive alignment was to create this flow chart this really helped
me see how the different pieces related to each other so I have the overarching course goal or
course learning outcome in blue and underneath of that I would have
in this case two learning objectives and each of
those are in red and they relate specifically to learning
outcome but are measurable so they’re more finite — then under
learning objective: one for example in the green boxes I would have one
or two different assignments that I would do some sort of assessment or evaluation it may be quiz or it may be a homework assignment it may be a group project and then in the
purple box is the teaching approach or the coast
course materials are or how I’m going to go about —
preparing the students to be able to achieve that learning objective which
ultimately I will want to be able to measure so that is kind of a broad flowchart and let
me give a couple of examples specifically from my course so you can see how they would work together so one of my learning objectives is for
the students to be able to demonstrate skills associated with creating a
landscape designs so the two assignment types of areas that I would do you that relate to that objective one are specific design
assignments and I actually have five of them for this course and the other one is a reflective
writing assignment after each design which I’ll talk about in the next objective but if we go back to just the design
assignments then in the purple boxes are the ways we — that I do the teaching as it relates to this particular objective so there’s
individual instruction in the studio there are different peer critiques that the
students do in class and then there’s the course
material so I have created this extensive studio manual that has the assignments and resources and things like that so all those help the students be able
to do the particular assignment and then that of course wraps up to that learning objective one in the red box the
other learning objective that I’ll give you as an example is — for them to practice and refine their written and oral communication of different design concepts so — to
support that I have two kind of broad assignments for
that they do and — I’m just going to focus on the
written area this learning objective and that’s why
there’s a W in the green boxes the design critiques are an assignment
that they do with the review the existing designs
and give a professional critique so the way I teach that or the
supporting materials I have are in the purple boxes so there’s an assignment rubric and they know what is the needed to include in the critic and then samples from my blog so they can see what a design critique can look like — the other assignment that I do you related to the written and communication
is a creative design portfolio and so the supporting materials to help them do that are the samples from past classes and then the course materials I’ve created which includes links to additional design portfolios, examples of
how and what type information to include in your portfolio as you get ready to go on the job market
some of those types of things so they use those as they complete that design portfolio
assignment and the have the tools they need in order to be successful so those just a couple of examples of
how I have used constructive alignment with a — course learning objective the assignments or assessments, and then in those purple boxes the different ways
in a approach the teaching so I have spent quite a bit of time on this and really for me its really paid off
because I’m seeing quite a few improvements so I have just listed a few
through here — for you to consider one of the things
that I found is that my assignments are more focused and they tend to relate better to each other now — I have fewer assignments and it allows me to spend more time
providing feedback to the students so I think they end up getting more valuable feedback as the course moves on so they can continue to improve and then I’m also now able to scaffold my assignments start with very simple assignments and move to more complex ones throughout the course of the semester so for me the time that it took to go
through and to really reevaluate my course has really paid off and I think my
teaching is much more efficient and much more effective now and the
students really had positive comments as well they commented that they felt that the,
“assignments had real-world applications” they commented about, “writing about the
different landscapes helped me think about my designed differently” which is great and then one of them commented, “although I didn’t like the design star stand ups at first but I know why you made us do them”
which is great they were practicing these communication skills which ultimately is going to prepare
them when they go out into their careers if you’re interested in more information
I would direct you to a book called, “Practical Handbook for
Educators: Designing Learning Opportunities” by Liesel Knaack it includes information about
constructive alignment as well as a lot of other
important components as you are starting to design your course and if you’re interested in in more
information please feel free to contact us at the
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching located in 3024 Morrill Hall and our website address is here on this slide as well thank you

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