I’m home sick. The whole family is. And this is day two of it.
Luckily, today I’m well enough to pick up a computer, and John and I are trading off watching the little one and resting. With classes starting up next week I’m using my resting time to work on my course design. I’d been planning to completely rework it in light of some second half of the semester developments, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
This is quite a change for me. For the past four sections or so, I’ve let the students plan for me. I’ve had a rough idea of what they should do mapped out ahead of time, but I’ve walked in on the first day and let the students make a list of what they expected to get out of the class when they signed up for it and what they hoped for. I’d use the day between classes to take their information and plan it out. This time, though, I need to do the planning ahead of time:
Thanks to Brian Mathews, and a blog post of his, I’ve had a few concepts floating around in the back of my head, but I hadn’t taken the time to look them up and think about them. A few days at home is apparently all I needed. So, through the lens of course planning, here’s what I’ve been thinking about:
Curriculum mapping looks like it has a lot of possibilities. I’m just in day one of learning about it, but from here, it looks like it’s powerful on the course level as well as the curriculum wide level. Brian and Char Booth both have a lot good to say about the framework, especially from a eagle-eye, big-picture view of curriculum at the university. I’m really interested in that, but in the immediate term, I’m interested in its application to my lib100 class.
From the onset, it looks a lot like how I’ve been approaching backwards course design. And all that really is, is:
- Determining your learning outcomes.
- Figuring out what could prove your students learned those outcomes.
- Figuring out what you could do to get your students ready to prove that they learned those outcomes.
I normally do this by applying the ADDIE Model, but that’s another post. What I like about curriculum mapping is this formalized process that forces you to articulate exactly what you think you’re doing and what you’re hoping to achieve. By writing it out in detail, once it’s time for assessment, you can pay much closer attention to what role your teaching played in the learning that happened in your class. I’m still working on my map, but once it’s done I’ll share it online in case you’re interested.
And then, I’ll start thinking about what this means curriculum wide.
The other big idea for me lately (again, thanks to Brian), was Threshold Concepts. I was incredibly lucky to get to hear Ray Land, himself, speak on Threshold Concepts at a local teaching conference (video behind the link, bonus points for picking out my head ) the other day. If you’re interested, I posted my initial thoughts on my library’s professional development blog. Some notes especially relevant here:
The idea of a Threshold Concept makes perfect sense once you hear about it. It’s those pieces of knowledge that change who you are as a person and how you see the world. You cannot unlearn them. The example that resonated most with me was that after taking women’s studies courses, you can’t see the world the same: family is different, work is different, your expectations for your own role change. He also pointed to other familiar concepts like evolution, deconstructionism, and very specific discipline based concepts like “photoprotection in plants” or “confidence to challenge” in design.
Throughout Land’s presentation I was thinking about what this means for information literacy instruction. I could think of two of those major shifts I went through. One was that there was an economics of information. As a child, prior to learning about employment, publishing models, tenure, and the like, I thought people sought out knowledge because that was important to do. And they made true knowledge available because that was the right thing to do with it. It never occurred to me that certain questions were asked because the investigator could get a grant to support the research or because it was something that could get published by a journal that was trying to make money. This was a major Threshold Concept for me. Another was that there are complex systems that might reveal information that would otherwise be unknowable. A librarian specifically taught me this when showing me Web of Science to track citations for a philosophy paper. Learning this system showed me a new type of information that I didn’t even understand could exist prior to that session. And learning it helped me realize that there were probably lots of other types of information out there that could only be revealed through these complex systems that I also did not even know existed. (…making libraries all the more exciting!)
[I chatted with a colleague] about how for today’s students, that you can’t find everything on Google is a Threshold Concept. It didn’t occur to me because search wasn’t so useful when I was in college. It was clear you’d have to do something to go beyond whatever you found on the web for an academic paper. Today’s students have a very different experience. And learning that they would have to go beyond the web is a certain Threshold Concept: it’s troublesomeknowledge in that they prefer the old world they lived in where Google could get them everything, it’s irreversible that once they learn about how limited that world is they’ll know they have to keep looking elsewhere for information, it’s integrative that it becomes part of who they are to continue to have to seek information through more complex means, and on and on.
Land mentioned that some faculty are reconstructing their classes around Threshold Concepts since they’re the ones that take more of a personal approach to helping students fully understand them and integrate them into their understanding. These faulty take the approach that the rest (or much of the rest) are details that can be self-taught, found through another resource, or could be taught in class to bolster the Threshold Concept.
Obviously, as I’m planning my class, I’m currently thinking of how to make clear the Threshold Concept of “it’s not all on Google.” However, I’m also interested in the next step Brian points out in his blog post: on how librarians can help students acquire the Threshold Concepts of their disciplines. But first… I have to finish this syllabus!