Yesterday at the faculty in-service we were fortunate to have nearly 3 hours with Dr. Ken Bain, who has passionately attempted to understand the qualities of those deemed best teachers. I found the presentation thought-provoking and informative, and I kept coming up with new ideas for my own classes as I participated in this one. And I note that Dr. Bain did so without relying on the use of slides or fancy technology (outside of the fact that this was a video-conference, of course); instead, he taught by asking question, rephrasing answers, and prodding the audience. Well done! So this morning I decided to look at some of his web resources. I am glad I did. I found a link to Montclaire College’s “Course Analysis Project,” which provides a list of questions an instructor can use to examine a course he or she teaches. These questions can help define your course intellectually. The full Analysis Project can be found at http://www.montclair.edu/academy/PlanCourse.html, and these questions come directly from that web site, for proper attribution. There are also questions about assessment and evaluation, and each question has a set of explanations to help you understand the goal of that question. We can all use these questions to help develop, revise and improve our courses.
1. What big questions will your course help students answer? Or what abilities (or qualities) will it help students develop?
2. What reasoning abilities must students have or develop to answer these questions?
3. What information will your students need to answer these questions? How will they obtain that information?
4. What paradigms of reality are students likely to bring with them that I will want them to challenge?
5. How will you help students who have difficulty understanding the questions and using evidence and reason to answer them? What questions will you ask them to focus their attention on significant issues, or to clarify concepts, or to highlight assumptions that they are likely to ignore? What writing will you ask them to do that will help them grapple with these matters?
6. How will you confront them with conflicting claims and encourage them to grapple (e. g., collaboratively) with the issues?
7. How will you find out what they expect from the course? How will you reconcile any differences between your plans and their interests?
8. How will you help students learn to learn, to examine and assess their own learning and thinking, and to read more effectively, analytically, and actively?
9. How will you find out how students are learning before you test them for a grade? How will you provide feedback before and separate from any grading of the student?
10. How will you communicate with students in a way that will keep them thinking?