Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending Vanderbilt Center for Teaching’s Course Design Institute. I am thankful that this year they opened a session for graduate students and postdocs -- just in time for me to design a new course syllabus within a structured, supportive, and collaborative environment!
We used the backwards design process:
desired outcomes -> assessment -> instruction (more info here)
This process helps us to
ask what students need to learn rather than what we want to say.
We started by developing course objectives. In doing so, we thought through these questions:
- What does transfer of the learning look like?
- What big ideas do students need to understand?
- What are some provocative questions (i.e., questions experts are still debating) relevant to the course?
- What do students need to know?
- What do students need to be able to do?
- What information should students know is out there?
Working through these questions reminds us that there is value in explicitly teaching foundational principles and value in supporting students in moving past right/wrong, black/white thinking to wrestle with ambiguous questions – a skill that is central to clinical practice.
FYI: Vanderbilt Center for Teaching has tons of awesome resources. Check them out!