Integrated course design is, in my opinion, critical to creating effective courses. I have followed the Understanding by Design model for most of my teaching career, but I was very interested by the approach suggested by Fink (2005). While he incorporates many of the same ideas as in Ub.D, I like how uses them in a more integrated rather than linear fashion. Fink suggests that “the learning goals, the feedback and assessment, and the teaching and learning activities must all reflect and support each other’. While this is somewhat implied in Ub.D. I think that Fink’s model is stronger, because it allows for more flexibility in the process of design. I found the exercise of examining situational factors suggested by Fink to be very enlightening and it helped me realize areas of my curriculum that I might need to further adjust for my population. I also like his emphasis on student reflection and metacognition. I learned that I need to integrate more opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning in a more deliberate way. The taxonomies of learning served as good reminders on creating learning activities and objectives that ask students to use higher levels of critical thinking. I think it is valuable to revisit objectives and ask “Is there a way I can make this objective more rigorous and more meaningful?’ The most interesting part of this unit for me was the information on active learning. As a science teacher, I have always felt that providing opportunities for active learning is one of my strengths. However, after reflecting on the reading this week, I realize how much I rely on indirect experiences and materials for learning. Fink gave excellent examples of how to integrate more “doing and observing experiences’ into my classes and how I can produce these experiences in an online class as well.
Overall, I believe that the online learning environment has worked well for me. As a working parent of two small children, living in a rural area, I would probably not have the flexibility to take traditional face-to-face courses. This class also allows me to attend the program of my choice even though it is produced 3,000 mi. away. I am also able to stay current with the class while traveling to conferences and on family vacations. One of the challenges of this class are the synchronous meetings, which because of the time change, typically fall during very difficult times of the day for me. I prefer the asynchronous communication, because it allows me to think through my responses and respond where I might otherwise remain silent. It also allows me to work at times of the day when I don’t have other commitments. I think that having a set of prompts before a synchronous session, would give me the time to process the information so that I can better contribute the conversation. I like the relative independence this class offers in pacing, while providing some deadlines to keep me focused.
This unit has helped me reflect on the way I teach and the types of activities I have been using. It has inspired me to reevaluate some the activities I currently do with my students and think of ways I can create more authentic learning experiences. There are many ways that I can substitute more meaningful observation and “doing’ experiences for topics I cover using direct methods. I have learned that I am not as comfortable working in synchronous meetings as I would like to be and that this is an area that I need more practice in. I have learned that there are ways to effectively and ineffectively use online synchronous communication and that it is somewhat of an art that requires preparation and good design to be successful.
Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Fancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.