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If you are working on a course design, and now it is time to decide on the content and how to organize it. As is often the case, we have far more to say about a topic than we can possibly cover in a term. One rule of thumb is to have students spending from 8-10 hours per week on your course, including in-class time. So how to decide? Following are some tips to help with these time-consuming yet crucial tasks.
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• Check in your department for past syllabi if you are offering a pre-existing course. Also be sure to check your institution’s course calendar and read the course description to ensure that your course meets that stated description.
• Locate similar courses at other institutions if your course is new (or you would like some new ideas). Talk to your colleagues in your discipline area or go to the Web to find courses.
• Review textbooks in your discipline area. This can be a very easy way to locate not only possible content to cover but also ready-made organizational structures. Publishers will send out texts for you to review. Keep your students in mind when choosing texts — not only their abilities and past experience with the topic areas but also their time limitations.
• If texts are not available or not appropriate, you may need to create a reading package or course notes. It will take more time to compile this type of resource, so set aside a few months for this activity. Also, be sure to factor in the time that may be needed to receive copyright clearance for copying and selling published materials. Your institution may have a copyright agreement which makes this less of an issue, but be sure to investigate what is possible in advance so you avoid basing part of your course on materials that you cannot easily secure for the students.

SELECTING CONTENT:- Set some type of criteria to help select appropriate content for your course. Course design literature suggests the following criteria. Course content should:-
• Fit with your course learning goals
• Have importance in the discipline
• Be based on or related to research
• Appeal to student interests
• Not overlap excessively with student past experience or knowledge
• Be multi-functional (help teach more than one concept, skill, or problem)
• Stimulate search for meaning
• Encourage further investigation
• Show interrelationships amongst concepts


Many variations on concept mapping techniques exist to help you decide on an organizational structure for your content. The key idea is to name, in a word or two, the major topics or concepts for your course, then try to visually place them on the page. You can use a hierarchical approach or put the concept in the centre of the page and work out from there. Put the words into boxes or bubbles and connect them with lines or arrows to show how the material connects. You may also want to put verbs on the connectors to clarify the relationships between ideas. For an even more flexible approach, try using an index card or sticky note for each concept, instead of boxes on one sheet of paper, and physically move them around until you see an organization that makes sense. For more linear thinkers, creating lists of headings and subheadings is equally effective. Some suggestions for ordering the topics or concepts include:-
• Topic by topic —There are no set relationships amongst the topics, so the ordering is not critical. This works well for courses that revolve around current issues, for example.
• Chronological — Moving from past to present is a very common and easy to implement organizational pattern.
• Causal — The course presents a number of events or issues that culminate in some final effect or solution.
• Cumulative — Each concept builds on the previous one(s).
• Problem-centred — Problems, questions, or cases represent the principal organizing features of the course.
• Spiral — Key topics or concepts are revisited throughout the course, with new information or insight developing each time. Within each class, also consider how to organize your material so that students can both learn and retain it. Different philosophies of learning are represented. Some ideas to consider are:
• Start with what students already know and then move to the abstract model or theory.
• Start with concrete examples, such as cases, news items, or other real-world situations, then generate the abstract concepts.
• Start with a solution, conclusion, or model and work backwards to the question.
• Give students time to reflect, individually or through discussion, on what and how they are learning.
• Build in practice time, with feedback, either in class or on assignments so that students learn to work with the concepts and can receive assistance with problem areas.


One of the most widely used ways of organizing levels of expertise is according to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. (Bloom et al., 1994; Gronlund, 1991; Krathwohl et al., 1956.) Bloom’s Taxonomy (Tables 1-3) uses a multi-tiered scale to express the level of expertise required to achieve each measurable student outcome. Organizing measurable student outcomes in this way will allow us to select appropriate classroom assessment techniques for the course. There are three taxonomies. Which of the three to use for a given measurable student outcome depends upon the original goal to which the measurable student outcome is connected. There are knowledge-based goals, skills-based goals, and affective goals (affective: values, attitudes, and interests); accordingly, there is a taxonomy for each. Within each taxonomy, levels of expertise are listed in order of increasing complexity. Measurable student outcomes that require the higher levels of expertise will require more sophisticated classroom assessment techniques.

The course goal in Figure 2–“student understands proper dental hygiene”–is an example of a knowledge-based goal. It is knowledge-based because it requires that the student learn certain facts and concepts. An example of a skills-based goal for this course might be “student flosses teeth properly.” This is a skills-based goal because it requires that the student learn how to do something. Finally, an affective goal for this course might be “student cares about proper oral hygiene.” This is an affective goal because it requires that the student’s values, attitudes, or interests be affected by the course.
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To determine the level of expertise required for each measurable student outcome, first decide which of these three broad categories (knowledge-based, skills-based, and affective) the corresponding course goal belongs to. Then, using the appropriate Bloom’s Taxonomy, look over the descriptions of the various levels of expertise. Determine which description most closely matches that measurable student outcome. As can be seen from the examples given in the three Tables, there are different ways of representing measurable student outcomes, e.g., as statements about students (Figure 2), as questions to be asked of students (Tables 1 and 2), or as statements from the student’s perspective (Table 3). You may find additional ways of representing measurable student outcomes; those listed in Figure 2 and in Tables 1-3 are just examples.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a convenient way to describe the degree to which we want our students to understand and use concepts, to demonstrate particular skills, and to have their values, attitudes, and interests affected. It is critical that we determine the levels of student expertise that we are expecting our students to achieve because this will determine which classroom assessment techniques are most appropriate for the course. Though the most common form of classroom assessment used in introductory college courses–multiple choice tests–might be quite adequate for assessing knowledge and comprehension (levels 1 and 2, Table 1), this type of assessment often falls short when we want to assess our students knowledge at the higher levels of synthesis and evaluation (levels 5 and 6).4 Multiple-choice tests also rarely provide information about achievement of skills-based goals. Similarly, traditional course evaluations, a technique commonly used for affective assessment, do not generally provide useful information about changes in student values, attitudes, and interests.
Thus, commonly used assessment techniques, while perhaps providing a means for assigning grades, often do not provide us (or our students) with useful feedback for determining whether students are attaining our course goals. Usually, this is due to a combination of not having formalized goals to begin with, not having translated those goals into outcomes that are measurable, and not using assessment techniques capable of measuring expected student outcomes given the levels of expertise required to achieve them. Using the CIA model of course development, we can ensure that our curriculum, instructional methods, and classroom assessment techniques are properly aligned with course goals. Note that Bloom’s Taxonomy need not be applied exclusively after course goals have been defined. Indeed, Bloom’s Taxonomy and the words associated with its different categories can help in the goals-defining process itself. Thus, Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used in an iterative fashion to first state and then refine course goals. Bloom’s Taxonomy can finally be used to identify which classroom assessment techniques are most appropriate for measuring these goals.
The 7 criteria below can be utilized in the selection of subject matter for micro curriculum, and for the content, subjects needed for the curricular program or course, of the macro curriculum.
1:- SELF-SUFFICIENCY:- To help learners attain maximum self-sufficiency at the most economical manner is the main guiding principle for subject matter or content selection (Schaffer, 1970) as cited by Bilbao et al., (2008). Economy of learning refers to less teaching effort and less use of educational resources; but students gain more results. They are able to cope up with the learning outcomes effectively. This means that students should be given chance to experiment, observe, and do field study. This allows them to learn independently. With this principle in mind, I suggest that for a high school curriculum or preparatory year, there should be a one day independent learning activity each week. However, this should be carefully planned by the teacher. When the students return, they should present outputs from the activity.
2:- SIGNIFICANCE:- The subject matter or content is significant if it is selected and organized for the development of learning activities, skills, processes, and attitude. It also develops the three domains of learning namely the cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills, and considers the cultural aspects of the learners. Particularly, if your students come from different cultural backgrounds and races, the subject matter must be culture-sensitive. In short, select a content or subject matter that can achieve the overall aim of the curriculum.
3:- VALIDITY:- Validity refers to the authenticity of the subject matter or content you selected. Make sure that the topics are not obsolete. For example, do not include typewriting as a skill to be learned by college students. It should be about the computer or Information Technology (IT). Thus, there is a need to check regularly the subject matter or contents of the curriculum, and replace it if necessary. Do not wait for another 5 years in order to change it. Modern curriculum experts are after current trends, relevance and authenticity of the curriculum; otherwise, your school or country will be left behind.
4:- INTEREST:- This criterion is true to learner-centered curriculum. Students learn best if the subject matter is meaningful to them. It becomes meaningful if they are interested in it. But if the curriculum is subject-centered, teachers have no choice but to finish the pacing schedule religiously and teach only what is in the book. This may somehow explain why many fail in the subject.
5:- UTILITY:- Another criterion is the usefulness of the content or subject matter. Students think that a subject matter or some subjects are not important to them. They view it useless. As a result, they don’t study.
Here are the questions that students often ask: Will I need the subject in my job? Will it give meaning to my life? Will it develop my potentials? Will it solve my problem? Will it be part of the test? Will I have a passing mark if I learn it? Students only value the subject matter or content if it is useful to them.
6:- LEARNABILITY:- The subject matter or content must be within the schema of the learners. It should be within their experiences. Teachers should apply theories on psychology of learning in order to know how subjects are presented, sequenced, and organized to maximize the learning capacity of the students.
7:- FEASIBILITY:- It means that the subject matter can be fully implemented. It should consider the real situation of the school, the government, and the society, in general. Students must learn within the allowable time and the use of resources available. Do not give them a topic that is impossible to finish. For example, you have only one week to finish the unit but then, the activities may take a month for the students to complete it. This is not feasible.
We have decided to take a group-based action research approach to the development of an introductory undergraduate module on the use of computer-mediated communications, entitled Elements of Information Management: communicating effectively in the networked organization. This activity has been supported by funding from Sheffield University Curriculum Development Fund, enabling one of us to devote time to formalizing a suitable action research approach. We hope to develop a model based upon our experience which will be transferable to other curriculum development initiatives.
Our curriculum design seeks to address two major objectives in undergraduate education: firstly, to enable students to experience “deep” learning; and secondly, to facilitate the development of transferable skills. It has long been recognised that traditional teaching techniques often fail to encourage “deep” learning of subject content, which goes beyond short-term rote memorisation to enable the assimilation of new knowledge in a way which allows re-application to novel situations (Entwhistle, 1988). Strategies to develop transferable skills in areas such as thinking and learning, self-management, communication, group work and information management, are intended to prepare students for work outside of the academic contexts in which they are learned initially.


The teaching strategy we have decided upon uses experiential and constructivist learning principles (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992;Kolb,1984; Boud, et al., 1985). For much of the module, students are engaged in a group-based collaborative project supported by the use of computer-mediated communication technologies such as electronic mail, asynchronous conferencing and synchronous chat. This is complemented by a range of individually-based learning activities. Students are provided with a range of on-line information resources, and have access to tutor support via electronic mail and face-to-face meetings as necessary. A major issue for us as action researchers is to come to an understanding of the nature and level of support required by students to gain the most from their learning activities. A key question associated with this is: what is the necessary balance between externally-imposed structure and control and the students freedom to be self-directed?
A number of features of the way we have decided to work on this module mark the approach as being one of action research:
We aim to apply the model offered by the action research cycle. Although not yet complete, the development of the module is following the action research cycle illustrated earlier. By completion of the first cycle, we will have:-
• identified a number of objectives and formed initial working hypotheses about meeting them. For instance, a key objective is to provide an appropriate framework for deep learning, for which we believe it will be necessary to encourage maximum student ownership of the learning process;
• planned a curriculum model and devised materials and processes to support it. For instance, a key feature of our curriculum model is students’ engagement in collaborative group project work. Materials and processes to support this include process workbooks and learning diaries for individual work, process workshops to support positive group functioning, and on-line tutor support.
• put these into practice by running the module. The module is based upon one hour of theory workshop and two hours of project work per week, over one semester. The main form of assessment is by coursework (the group project), supplemented by individually-produced learning diaries.
• made observations on our practice and evaluated its effects. Evaluation and self-assessment strategies include a range of on-going student feedback mechanisms and tutor debriefings.
• reflected upon the results of the evaluation, in preparation for modifying our practice for the second implementation of the module. For instance, at present the choice of focus for student project work is relatively limited. Given that students participating in the module come from a very wide diversity of academic disciplines, which are likely to hold distinctive perspectives on computer-mediated communication, we would like to open this up to greater student choice in future if appropriate.


We intend that the inquiry is critical in spirit and purpose:-
We believe that it is useful for our own development to perceive ourselves as a “critical community” of practitioners who not only want to improve the quality of teaching and learning in higher education within the constraints and practical considerations imposed upon us, but who also seek to be change agents of those constraints. For instance, assessment by examination is traditionally imposed at University level for this type of module; we anticipate and hope that its outcomes will justify the future elimination of this form of assessment in future implementation.

We aim to be reflective and self-evaluating:-
Insights gained from reflection and analysis of our practice will be fed back into practice. There will be continuous re-assessment of the module and its structure. Built into the module are mechanisms which remind and encourage us to reflect systematically on our activities. For instance, as tutors we keep a collaborative on-line ‘tutor diary’ in which we share our reflections on teaching performance, content, course structure, student response, etc., relating them to prior experience and to teaching/learning theory. Individual experience is thus made available between colleagues for comment and analysis, and we attempt to challenge as well as support each other. This semi-public sharing of experience creates a collegial, collaborative approach to our personal professional development.

We are accountable:-
We intend to make public the results of our evaluation, and the process by which it was achieved, both locally and more widely.

We are engaged in participative problem-solving:-
Those doing the research and those doing the teaching are one and the same. We have not employed external evaporators to assess the module; rather, we work together to gather data during its development and implementation which will then be analyzed collectively, taking account of the point of view of each of us. We believe that reporting of the project should similarly embrace all points of view, and reports will be jointly written.


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