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Course Design Approaches and Planning Resources

The following strategies can help ensure a successful semester by keeping students and learning at the forefront of course designs and pedagogical plans. There are strategies that we can implement to make teaching and learning more effective for both faculty and students. 

  • Build courses with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) from the outset. 

  • Build structure into assignments.

    • Focus on the Purpose, Task, and Criteria for Success and ensure that these are clear to student learners.

    • Build in frequent, low-stakes assignments or milestones based on the key steps or process to complete the assignment. These activities help students practice important concepts and skills. 

    • Design opportunities for peer-to-peer learning on low-stakes assignments or milestone projects that enhance learning. Incorporate valuable academic resources such as the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity into syllabi or class meetings

  • Review and update grading and feedback structures to promote learning and continued student success in the course and on future assignments. Provide student feedback and assessment that encourages growth, continued learning, and development in the course. 

  • Design active-learning that promotes inclusion and empathy in your courses:

    • Make deliberate connections 

      • Learn names, draw from student-generated examples, hold open student hours (and invite regular and ongoing communication)

    • Encourage dialogue and feedback

      • Invite student feedback, conduct regular check-ins, ask specific questions (related course content or material)

  • Give students options that encourage success and persistence: Incorporate into the course design elements that allow students to take ownership of their learning. 

    • Offer students the opportunity to select an essay topic or a due date from a range of options, or decide on the assignment format, such as an essay or a video with a transcript. This also supports UDL approaches.

  • Apply backward design to ensure a focus on essential learning outcomes: In designing your course, start with the end in mind. First decide what you want students to walk away from the course with—knowledge, skills, or habits of mind—and then work backward by selecting and aligning the materials, activities, and assessments that will help them achieve those goals.

  • Co-Create or co-design learning experiences alongside students. Design learning resources such as study guides or rubrics in partnership with students or allow students to contribute and offer input.

Semester Teaching Resources

Faculty are welcome to schedule a consultation or observation focused on their teaching:

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