Course Design Guide

Course Design Guide

Designing meaningful learning experiences that are active, center students, and build on prior knowledge is a skill developed and strengthened over time. This guide is designed to help you take a goal-oriented approach to course planning with opportunities to collect evidence of student learning throughout your course.

A Goal-Oriented Approach to Course Design

How can you plan what students will be doing without first knowing what you want them to learn? By focusing course planning around clear learning objectives, instructors can have a better sense of how students should demonstrate their learning, and then consider what day-to-day experiences may best support students’ learning.

Below we outline three key stages of course design. Select the links provided to learn more about each stage.

Stage 1. Establish Learning Objectives

What should students know, understand, and be able to do? Establish learning objectives to narrow and prioritize topics, concepts, or skills that students should know or be able to do by the end of your lesson, course unit, or full-semester course.

Stage 2. Determine Acceptable Evidence

What will you accept as evidence that students are making progress toward their learning? Determining how students can best demonstrate their learning will help differentiate introductory versus advanced knowledge and skills, build in opportunities to check in with students’ learning, and surface inequities in learning opportunities.

Stage 3. Design Experiences to Support Student Learning

What activities, assignments, or discussions will help prepare students to demonstrate their learning? Explore active learning strategies that meaningfully engage students in their learning, build on prior knowledge, and foster collaboration.

Next Steps in Course Design

After you have designed your course, how do you ensure that the learning process is transparent to students? Consider common instructional tools available to you, including your course description and syllabus. To stay in touch with how students are experiencing your course, leverage low-stakes activities, surveys, and other resources to collect evidence of student learning and gauge the effectiveness of your teaching practices.

Communicate Expectations to Students (and Colleagues)

A syllabus serves as an introduction to the course and a description of what students can expect to learn, practice, and explore throughout the semester. Additionally, a syllabus serves as an example of your teaching practice and pedagogical approach to colleagues, including colleagues who are new to teaching, your department chair, and review committees.

Syllabus Design

(Forthcoming, Fall 2021)

Document Teaching and Learning Effectiveness

How do you know when students experience a barrier to learning? How do you assess the strengths and weaknesses in your teaching practice? What evidence informs potential changes to your course or teaching practice the next time you teach? Explore strategies for reflecting on your teaching practice and collecting evidence of student learning and learning experiences.

Assess Teaching & Learning

(Forthcoming, Fall 2021)