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Curriculum Design Part 1: The High-Level Planning (9:17)
Part 1 of 4 episodes on Curriculum Design in Doug Neill’s “Verbal to Visual” series.
Part 1 explores the questions that must be considered prior to detailed curriculum planning: Who’s your audience? What is the transformation sought? What is the mode of this curriculum? Using his own thinking about the “Verbal to Visual” series, Neill models how answers to these questions shape curriculum design.
Curriculum Design Part 2: The Clothesline Method (6:58)
Part 2 of 4 episodes on Curriculum Design in Doug Neill’s “Verbal to Visual” series.
Part 2 shows how Steven Pressman’s “Clothesline Method” can be used to sequence and plan learning activities to effect transformation and support curriculum goals. Neal emphasizes the creative potential and inherent flexibility of this method.
Curriculum Design Part 3: Producing the Material (9:07)
Part 3 of 4 episodes on Curriculum Design in Doug Neal’s “Verbal to Visual” series.
Part 3 details a visual note-taking technique for creating course materials based on “empathy maps” of students and their learning needs.
Curriculum Design Part 4: Iterate Over Time (8:36)
Part 4 of 4 episodes on Curriculum Design in Doug Neal’s “Verbal to Visual” series.
Part 4 reflects on how to make effective adjustments and improvements to curriculums over time.
Innovating Teaching and Learning: Reports from University Lecturers
Date Reviewed: February 19, 2015
Innovating Teaching and Learning is the final product of a summer program and an extended follow-up Inquiry into Student Learning initiative based in Slovakia in 2011 and 2012. Participants from a wide range of disciplines were required to identify a specific learning challenge within an existing course, design a “pedagogical innovation” (8) that would address this challenge, implement the innovation during the following teaching semester, and document the results of the innovation in a report for the program coaches. The editors identify the core chapters of Innovating Teaching and Learning as the best reports emerging from the innovation projects.
“Innovation” in the context of this volume refers to a shift in focus from an instructional paradigm to a learning paradigm. In short, this means placing students at the center of teaching practice: “teachers should focus more on how their students learn rather than placing importance on their own performance as teachers” (8). Following principles of student-centered practice, participants in the program applied pedagogical theory to specific course challenges, challenges organized into five overall sections in the volume: improving student pre-class preparation, teaching large classes, teaching courses rich in complex terminology, enhancing student abilities of theory application, and making assessment an effective tool for student learning. Their reports include a brief introduction to the particular pedagogical challenge in question, an outline of the theoretical background for the innovation, descriptions of research design and findings, discussion of areas of difficulty, and suggestions for future improvement. For example, Katarína Hrnciarová (33–40) introduced blog assignments as a way to motivate students to read assigned literature in her philosophy course, applying theoretical work on student motivation, blended learning, and the use of blogs in higher education. Anna Vallušová (83–91) designed worksheets for students in her microeconomics class in order to encourage students to actively make connections between economic models and real-world practice. Vallušová reports that students who had failed the course in the previous year reacted most notably to the innovation, showing “surprise and enthusiasm when they had realized that certain theories corresponded with phenomena they knew from real life” (88).
The main strength of this book is its presentation of “small innovations”: targeted learning strategies designed to meet a particular learning challenge or outcome within a course based on applied pedagogical theory. The theoretical work behind the innovation projects moves the volume beyond a simple “teaching tips and tricks” manual, balancing practice with theory. Each project was fairly small within the scope of a course, the idea being not to overhaul a course but to introduce change gradually in order to effectively ensure that learning activities and assessment align with learning outcomes. As each project was small, teachers were able to easily document and reflect on the impact of their respective changes. Innovating Teaching and Learning is an important resource for stimulating critical reflection on teaching practice. For example, after implementing a project similar to Hrnciarová’s blog assignment, I discovered new strategies for advancing student learning by motivating students to read. This reflection also enabled me to think about collecting documentation on my discussion starters project in order to critically evaluate the results.
The editors themselves recognize the major limitations of Innovating Teaching and Learning in their concluding chapter. The most frustrating limitation for participants, receiving comment in a number of reports, was the limited control of the instructors involved (mostly graduate students) over their courses; seminar leaders or those teaching from a pre-set syllabus could change small components of a course, but could not change content or major components of student assessment. Findings sometimes indicated disconnections between the objective of the innovation and the course methods of assessment. The volume is, however, an accessible starting point for those wishing to more thoughtfully integrate classroom activity with pedagogical research.
Handbook of Design in Educational Technology
Date Reviewed: February 19, 2015
Although this handbook is primarily for design in educational technology much of it can be applied to the educational ecology of religious studies and theological education. It is also useful for discussions of basic learning theory and for applying technology to the task of teaching.
Chapter 3, “The Ecology of Resources,” provides a model of the learner’s context and identifies steps to map the learner’s ecology of resources (33-51). Some of these steps may be familiar to seasoned educators. Those unfamiliar with these steps will find help that deepens their understanding and practice of teaching. Perhaps most notable here concerns the identification of filters, both positive and negative, through which the resources of the teaching environment, people and tools involved, and knowledge and skills required interact with the learners.
A chapter on assessment of student learning of twenty-first century skills focuses on collaborative problem-solving (53-64). This section provides a table that lists three indicators for success: action, interaction, and task completion, with brief descriptions of each. It then details three levels of quality criteria for each (low, medium, and high) with descriptions about each criteria level. The criteria, in particular, could be helpful for assessing an exploration of religion-based bullying in classroom contexts, for instance.
Context, Activities, Roles, Stakeholders, and Skills (CARRS), in a chapter on involving young people in design, provides a useful structure not only for the design of software but also for the development of a single class or an entire course (101-11). Each element involved will be familiar to seasoned teachers, but the scheme’s attention to developing the abilities of young participants to contribute is especially useful for beginning teachers.
“Designing for Seamless Learning” (146-157) creatively claims mobile technology ? such as cell phones and tablets – can be helpful for student learning. Seamless learning emphasizes continuity of learning within and beyond the classroom. Table 13.1 lists ten characteristics and shows specific ways by which mobile technology supports seamless learning: it is learner (user) centered, an everyday life experience; it functions across time, across location, and across social groups; it flows naturally across different situations, or can be situated (wherever needed); is cumulative, personalized, and accommodates versatile learning activities. Perhaps students studying worship, for instance, might be encouraged to report or note kinds of worship in their community.
Prompts for learning (scaffolds) have been a staple of classroom education for decades, and the chapter on “Scaffolding Learning in a Learning Management System” (241-255) extends that tool beyond the traditional classroom. Using internet tools to provide feedback, clarify assignments, engage in dialogue, and so forth engages the learner outside of the class in a range of ways to prompt learning.
Chapter 21 includes a discussion of the use and challenges of Second Life, a virtual reality construct, for educational purposes (366-369). The use of software gaming programs for teaching religion and theology is a growing area of practice. This chapter is timely.
Additional thought-provoking approaches to teaching practice are outlined within this book’s forty-three chapters. This book could be purchased by the library, in paperback or ebook format, so that faculty in a department or theological school could have access to it. It is a stimulating tool that encourages a range of technological tool uses in ways appropriate to religious and theological education.