Saturday, June 25, 2016
I am just finishing checking and collecting course outcomes for almost 500 courses at our college. That means over 2,000 outcomes, in an epic spreadsheet, ready to be added to our website. It so happens that this year I have also become a co-facilitator in several Quality Matters workshops offered by our state system as well, all of which focus on course outcomes, alignment of outcomes with assignments, and assessment. That means that this year I have had the opportunity to take a very close look at hundreds of course pieces; syllabi and modules and rubrics and discussions on how to improve all of the above. For someone who loves building curriculum (I also spend a lot of time developing and facilitating other professional development courses for educators as well) this has been a fantastically fascinating (albeit time-consuming) experience.
The outcome of this? I have a new respect for the power of outcomes and what they can do for both faculty and students. They help faculty deeply consider the main aspects of their course and how to best bring that to the students. To not get too distracted or stray too far off course. They help students see what it is they are going to get out of a course, and - especially with the help of rubrics - what the expectations are for how they will get there. Clear language regarding outcomes helps to bring an immediacy to the learning experience. Together, the faculty and students strive to work through the activities; to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create. (I have made a list of Bloom's action verbs available on our Canvas LMS help tab for faculty to easily refer to when writing their outcomes.)
Writing outcomes takes some thought; it is a process that is something akin to painting an abstract picture. It requires expressing your thoughts about a whole course in a few succinct sentences. (Later, this helps you to break down each module you teach to support those course outcomes as well.) Many faculty teach with a very general idea of what needs to be done, adjusting as they go based on student needs, time, and materials. Most have no time to write formal lesson plans, per se. Outcomes should respect this need for creativity and on-the-fly adjustments; they should not confine that very important personal aspect of teaching. They need to convey the general underlying concepts, not the details of any given course. And they are most powerful when they address the truly meaningful aspects of learning.
Thoughtful outcomes create an improved pathway for both faculty and students. I look forward to the continued journey in working with more and more faculty on outcomes and their related aspects. Outcomes, like online learning, are becoming a part of the 21st century learning experience, and can be artfully embedded into any course. If we embrace them and allow them to help us teach, our classes will become all the more vibrant.
PARK | Flickr - Photo Sharing! : taken from - https://www.flickr.com/photos/winnybiets/27862291556/Author: winny biets https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/