I’ve spent 3 days at the first Governor’s Teaching Fellows program in Athens.  Most of the sessions are conducted by our very own Cynthia Alby.  The focus on these three days has been backward course design and a shift from a content-centered paradigm to a learning-centered paradigm.   I’ve chosen to work on the critical thinking course.  Here are some notes particular to the course, including a draft of the final assessment.

Situational Factors

As with any good design considering the situational factors is an important starting point.  I jotted some particular to our course:

  • unusual group = half chemistry majors and half other majors – this year a large group of business undecided.  Next year we may want to look at the distribution to tailor our “message” to the students.  Because it is the critical thinking course, the students taking the course are taking it to fulfill the core requirement.  They may not be invested in their success in this course or see much value in it.  On the other hand the chemistry majors are very invested because they do see the direct connection to their personal goals and their interests.
  • timing = stretching the three sections over two time periods and classrooms presents an interesting challenge.
One or both of these situational factors may not be a factor next year, making it difficult to determine if we should work to address them or not.  Cynthia does something that might be a good idea for us.  She writes a syllabus letter that she sends to her students that sets the tone for her expectations and alleviates the fears of the students.  The letter is written in an informal tone, which outlines what she hopes her students will achieve, how they will achieve it and how they will be evaluated.  She also points out what they will gain as people, not just skills and learning.  We might want to do this and address the notion of coming to college to be challenged (i.e, “you came to college to be challenged, didn’t you?”)

Goals

fink_taxonomy_significant_learAn interesting assignment we had was to draft goals for our course that align with all of Fink’s areas; Foundational, Application, Integration, Caring, Human Dimension – which are described below.

  • Application: putting into practice leadership and management skills in a real world context.
  • Integration: developing an MDG related challenge and creating a plan to address it.
  • Human Dimension: experiencing and reflecting one’s own role and the role of others in working effectively as a team
  • Caring: developing a clear understanding of personal challenges and motivation
  • Learning how to learn: developing understanding and habits going forward to continue to reflect on and develop your own leadership skills and the leadership capacity of others.

My Goals

COURSE:  GC1Y Chemistry & Climate

UNIT: Atmospheric Pollution & Acid Rain

Foundational

  • demonstrate an understanding of the chemical properties of atoms, molecules and ions by
    • recognizing and naming common polyatomic ions and covalent molecules.
    • calculating the molecular weight of compounds.
    • differentiating between the essential features of covalent and ionic bonding.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the chemical principles of stoichiometry and reactions in solutions by
    • characterizing reaction types.
    • calculating solution concentrations.
    • determining pH of solutions.
    • solving chemical problems by manipulating chemical reactions according to stoichiometric methodology.

Application

  • explain and analyze scientific evidence for atmospheric pollution by
    • identifying the stratifications of the atmosphere and components.
    • using appropriate scientific language to describe air pollution.
    • articulating how acid rain results in environmental problems.
    • describing chemical principles that describe the effect of atmospheric pollutants.

Integration

  • evaluate scientific and popular information for relevance and authority by
    • connecting popular interpretations to scientific explanations

Human Dimension

  • attempt to understand motivation of industry/individuals contributing to pollution
  • attempt to understand impact of pollution on individuals and communities

Caring

  • developing empathy for populations affected by pollution
  • developing a sense of concern for environmental damage

Learning to Learn

  • analyzing your own approach to problem solving
  • identifying success & failures

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