Course Design Checklist
Checklist developed by Larry Michaelsen and Jim Sibley
Importance of Backwards Design
Backwards design is an instructional design method first popularized by Wiggins and McTighe. Backward design begins with the end in mind. The important question is: What enduring understandings do I want my students to develop" It is particularly well suited for the development of Team-Based Learning (TBL) courses. Wiggins and McTighe focus on enduring understandings that goes beyond simple recall and remembering facts (inert knowledge) to include larger concepts, principles, problem-solving skills and processes. Their model has 3 stages:
1. Identifying desired learning outcomes.
2. Identifying how one will know if the students know.
3. Planning learning experiences and instruction.
Identify goals and objectives of the course – what do students need to be able to do" What do they need to know in order to do this
- How will they use course concepts"
- How is this meaningful and relevant to students"
Organize course content into manageable sections
- Around major themes
- Typically 4-7 modules per semester
Create a reading list or, better yet, a reading guide for each module that helps students focus on the important aspects of the readings. This will enable students to come to class well prepared.
- Readings can be textbooks, journal articles, old course notes or internet resources (typically 2-3 textbook chapters).
- Develop Readiness Assessment Tests (15-20 multiple-choice questions) that test students’ knowledge of the reading material at a “table of contents” level and not at an “index” level. Focus on important concepts, not specific details. You can use the reading guide to block out the questions you need to ask to assess their level of preparation and comprehension.
Develop Application Exercises. Effective team learning activities will:
- Increase understanding of course content. Activities cannot be so simple that students are merely repeating information from readings – instead ask students to make decisions and use their judgment. The goal is to develop exercises that create opportunities for different student groups to select a different “correct” answer and support their answer with reasonable arguments based on the course concepts.
- Increase group cohesiveness for successful development of learning teams. Avoid activities where the logical step would be to divide the work (e.g. a long written report), instead have them focus on reporting their group decision in a concise way that requires forethought, filtering and prioritizing of crucial information.
Develop an assessment plan that takes into account individual work, group work and peer evaluation.
- Student involvement in setting the final grade weights can improve their buy in and eliminate their anxieties around group work.
- Typical mark breakdown for RAP process is 10% individual RAP, 10% team RAP and 5% peer evaluation.
Start off on the right foot
- Ensure students understand why and how the teacher is using team-based learning. One way is to have students read the syllabus and then hold a practice individual and team Readiness Assessment Process on this ‘content’ to show students how the beginning of each macro-unit will be conducted.
- Form diverse groups transparently. Ask questions or use a questionnaire to distribute assets and liabilities and avoid the emergence of sub-groups (e.g. Work experience, previous relevant course work, access to perspectives from other cultures etc.). Groups can be formed outside of class as long as instructor keeps the group formation process transparent.
- Alleviate students’ concerns about grades, especially their fears from past experiences where they have had to choose between carrying the group or getting a bad mark. One way this can be done is by including students in an exercise called “Setting Grade Weights” so that, within limits set by the instructor, students negotiate with one another to reach a mutually acceptable set of weights for each component of the grading system (individual and team performance and each members’ contribution to team success).
- Create student orientation materials
- Each major unit of instruction
- Follow a sequence of learning activities that ensure content coverage and in-class activities that encourage students to apply their newly acquired knowledge and to build group cohesiveness.
- Near end of term
- Review course content to remind students of the large amount of material covered.
- Review and integrate what students have learned about applying the content. One way to do this is to use unstructured problems that require using concepts from multiple content areas.
- Emphasize the value of teams in tackling challenges in every sphere of life. Show students the statistics for their class to reveal how consistently teams outperform their own best member. In 14 years of research by Michaelsen, Bauman Knight and Fink (2004) team scores outperformed their best members more than 99% of the time by an average of 11%.
- Increase students’ awareness of effective team interactions and the reasons for changes in individual behavior through activities. One way is to have students individually reflect on major changes or events that made a difference in the group, then as a team create a short written analysis that addresses barriers to team effectiveness and keys to overcoming them.
- Evaluate peers. Team-based learning allows students to learn about themselves, how they interact with others and to receive honest and appropriate feedback about their strengths and weaknesses. Peer evaluations in the simplest form include formally collecting data from team members on how much and in what way they have contributed to each others’ learning and making the information (but not who provided it) available to individual students.