I work with faculty members across the entire Oklahoma State University A&M system to help them improve their teaching. While my team and I employ many different strategies and research-based techniques, it all begins with a foundation of trust. We have worked hard over the years to build a good relationship with faculty members in every college, and every discipline, on campus so that when professors, department heads, or graduate students need assistance they know where to turn. My team and I don’t know everything about every discipline on campus, but instead we specialize in research-based principles that can help professors in virtually every discipline refine and hone their teaching so as to create effective, engaging learning experiences.
Research supports the idea of backwards-oriented instruction: begin with the end in mind, and let your activities and assessment strategies flow from those outcomes. As an instructional designer, I start by asking the following three questions when creating a learning experience whether it is a semester-long course or a one-hour webinar.
What do I want my students to know, learn, or be able to do at the conclusion of this learning experience?
What learning activities can I implement that will help my students accomplish those goals?
How will I know if my students have learned what I want them to learn?
By starting with the end in mind, I can make sure my learning activities align with my outcomes. These activities can range from lectures to small group activities to interactive online sessions and much more. Course activities can involve technology such as videoconferencing, realtime polling, and software-based collaborations. Or they might be as simple as taking notes on paper. Using course outcomes as a guidepost, a north star, it helps ensure that activities are targeted, intentional, and engaging.
I can also implement appropriate assessments to gauge the effectiveness of my course activities. Based on research that supports the idea of regular low-stakes quizzes as opposed to high-stakes exams like midterms and finals, I tend to gravitate towards the former as opposed to the latter. Assessments can also take the form of presentations, discussions, interviews, papers, models, videos, and other artifacts that demonstrate learning and show mastery of concepts.
Using this foundation of outcome-oriented design has helped my team and I design workshops, courses, and one-on-one training sessions that have led to an increase in student engagement and higher levels of self-efficacy for instructors who utilize these principles in their instruction.