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Visually Mapping Course Design for Students: The Graphic Syllabus *. Jackie Cason, Ph.D. Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence New Faculty Orientation Fall 2006. *Adapted from a pre-conference workshop by Linda B. Nilson,

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visually mapping course design for students the graphic syllabus

Visually Mapping Course Design for Students: The Graphic Syllabus*

Jackie Cason, Ph.D.

Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence

New Faculty Orientation

Fall 2006

*Adapted from a pre-conference workshop by Linda B. Nilson,

Clemson University, Writing Across the Curriculum Conference, May 2006, and from the UAF Center for Distance Education and Distance Learning Systems based on the work of Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe, 1998, Understanding by Design.

reflecting on current practice
Reflecting on Current Practice

What ‘planning process’ do

you currently use when

developing a course and

preparing your syllabus?

Take a moment to generate a response.

You can jot notes, create a diagram or flowchart, or write a descriptive paragraph.

Just capture your current process!

identifying course goals
Identifying Course Goals
  • Traditional Process
    • Curriculum Content Guides http://www.curric.uaa.alaska.edu/curric/courses/
    • Previous Syllabi
  • Backward Design
    • Enduring Understandings
    • Essential Questions
    • Unit Questions and Activities
traditional process
Traditional Process

Teach, Test, Hope for the Best

backward design
Backward Design

Stages of the Backward Design Process

why backward
Why “Backward”?

The stages are logical but

they go against habits!

  • We’re used to jumping to lesson and activity ideas first before clarifying our performance goals for students.
  • By thinking through the assessments up front, we ensure greater alignment of our goals and means, and ensure that our teaching is focused on desired results.
curricular priorities
Curricular Priorities

Types of Understanding/Bodies of Knowledge

levels of knowledge
Levels of Knowledge

It’s worth being familiar with if it…

 is really interesting and adds value to lifelong learning.

 can be a hook to a big idea or theme.

  • helps in making links to other ideas or disciplines.

It is important to know and do if it…

 is key to understanding the subject.

 is something one might need to know and do throughout life.

 links to enduring understandings.

It is an enduring understanding if it…

 is at the heart of the discipline.

 has value beyond the classroom.

 is that aspect of learning that will remain for a lifetime

uncoverage
Uncoverage
  • Instead of Covering Material, Uncover It
    • Find ways to have students do the material, not just learn it.
    • Focus on integrated performance, not isolated lessons.
    • Enduring understandings are subtle and unobvious.
    • Uncover what is vital and revealing.
    • What is uncovered is a shorthand for results of inquiries, problems, and arguments, not self-evident fact.
  • Breadth
    • Unearth, Analyze, Question, Prove, Generalize
    • Not the same as coverage
  • Depth
    • Connect, Picture, Extend
some enduring understandings
Some Enduring Understandings

American History

  • Individuals and their varied backgrounds contribute to the diversity of American culture and society.
  • Tensions are inherent in the principles, values, and ideals of American society.
some enduring understandings11
Some Enduring Understandings

Composition Studies

  • Communication is contextual and occurs at the intersection of writer, audience, and publication forum.
  • Genres evolve, and are always evolving, as a matter of practice; therefore, the “rules” of good writing are descriptive rather than prescriptive.
  • Citation practices in academic writing are the means of joining an ongoing intellectual conversation and a way of contributing new knowledge to that conversation.
  • Writing styles arise out of a community’s particular ways of knowing and being.
understanding questions
Understanding → Questions

Understanding Leads to Essential Questions

  • From Enduring Understandings…
      • Physics: the nature of gravitational force
      • History: the subjective aspect of the historical record
      • Literature: the roles of morals, heroes, and villains in fiction
      • Communication: the characteristics of sarcasm, irony, and spin
  • …Create Essential Questions
      • What is gravity?
      • Is history objective? Is it a history of progress?
      • Must fiction involve morality?
      • Do we always “mean what we say and say what we mean?”
  • The Essential Questions Endure
      • Recur throughout the course (and beyond)
      • Can’t be answered simply… or sometimes at all
essential questions
Essential Questions

Essential Questions--Organizational Framework for Units of Instruction

  • Go to the heart of the discipline—address the philosophical or conceptual foundations of the discipline
  • Have no obvious “right” answer
  • Recur naturally throughout one’s learning and in the history of the field/discipline
  • Raise other important questions, often across disciplinary boundaries
  • Lead readily to asking research or inquiry questions
  • Are framed to provoke and sustain student interest
essential unit questions
Essential → Unit Questions

Essential Questions Lead to Unit Questions

  • Unit questions inform class activities
      • Uncover facets of essential understandings
      • Still not self-evidently true… uncovered
      • Provoke/sustain student interest
  • Samples of Unit Questions
      • Physics: How is gravity related to mass? Explain the basic inverse square proportion (Newton’s Law)
      • History: How have perceptions of Columbus (and our celebration of Columbus Day) changed? Why?
      • Literature: Who are the moral centers of Huck Finn?
      • Communication: Is the Alanis Morrissette song “Ironic” actually ironic? How does it differ in this respect from Mark Antony’s “Brutus is an honorable man?”
first impressions course design and the graphic syllabus
First Impressions: Course Design and the Graphic Syllabus

Now that you have taken the time to design your course with enduring understandings, essential questions, and authentic activities and assessments, how do you communicate that to students?

traditional definition of a syllabus
Traditional Definition of a Syllabus

The Oxford English Dictionary defines syllabus as “a statement of the subjects covered by a course of instruction or by an examination, in a school, college, etc.; a programme of study” [1889].

how some students see your syllabus and course design
How Some Students See Your Syllabus and Course Design

Organization of Course, BLAH 300: “Something I Gotta Take to Graduate”

  • Week 1: Overview of Orienteering through Obstacles
  • Week 2: From Compasses to GPS Technology
  • Week 3: Hiking Boots and Knot Tying
  • Week 4: Cont’—Untying Knots
  • Week 5: Encountering Wildlife I: Bears and Beavers
  • Week 6: Encountering Wildlife II: Moose and Waterfowl
  • Week 7: Fur Rendezvous
  • Week 8: How to Cure a Hangover and Prevent Pregnancy
  • Week 9: Cabin Fever and S.A.D.
four functions of a syllabus
Four Functions of a Syllabus
  • A contract
  • A communication device
  • A plan of action
  • A cognitive map
a contract
A Contract

The syllabus is an important legal document that represents an agreement between you and your students.

Consider seriously the policies you want to enforce.

at uaa a syllabus is a student right
At UAA, a syllabus is a student right…
  • “Students have the right to be informed at the beginning of each term of the nature of the course, course expectations, evaluation standards, and the grading system.” (Ch. 5, p. 44)
a contract23
A Contract

The syllabus is an important quasi-legal document that represents an agreement between you and your students (and UAA):

  • It must reflect the purpose of the course as stated in the Catalog.
  • It must state your course policies explicitly to be enforceable.
  • By remaining in your class, a student consents to be governed by the syllabus.
instructor contact information
Please remember:

Faculty are required to hold office hours

Students need at least two ways to contact you

Say which way is best to contact you

Instructor Contact Information…
exercise 1 enforceability
Exercise 1: Enforceability

“Papers must submitted in class on the day they are due; no late papers will be accepted.”

note academic freedom
Note: Academic Freedom

Be aware of the rights and responsibilities of academic freedom:

  • It is your right to use any material, even if it is controversial, if you deem it germane to the subject being studied.
  • It is your responsibility to warn students about controversial material at the beginning, so that they can make an informed choice as to whether to stay in the course.
  • The syllabus should alert students to material that might be offensive.
  • For example…
sample disclaimers
Sample Disclaimers
  • “The texts studied in this course are intended for adults and may include some disturbing language or situations.”
  • “The writings of the past are filled with ideas, images, and words that contemporary readers may find offensive.”
a communication device
A Communication Device

The syllabus provides the opportunity to anticipate and respond to student questions and to establish a tone for the course.

note clarify boundaries policies
Note: Clarify boundaries & policies
  • Make your boundaries as a faculty member clear. Don't try to be all things to all students!
  • List student services that are available for non-academic needs, such as
    • Disability Support Services
    • Information Technology Call Center
    • Enrollment Services
  • Make your plan crystal clear by avoiding misleading language.
exercise 2 clarity
Exercise 2: Clarity

Attendance Grading Scale

A in the class 1-3 absences

B in the class 4-6 absences

C in the class 7-9 absences

D in the class 10-12 absences

F in the class – more than 12 absences

Paper #1 = 500 points

Paper #2 = 500 points

Total points possible = 1000

a plan of action
A Plan of Action

The syllabus should represent the overall plan of action for the semester

  • Course mission http://curric.uaa.alaska.edu/curric/courses/
  • Educational philosophy
  • Course strategy
  • Course goals
note make sure your syllabus is flexible enough
Note: Make sure your syllabus is flexible enough
  • Assignments and policies should be realistic.
  • Policies should be worth the trouble to enforce.
  • Policies and grading should give room for (fairly) exercising your discretion in unexpected situations.
exercise 3 flexibility
Exercise 3: Flexibility

“If you are 15-29 minutes late, you will receive half of the attendance grade for the day. If you are more than 30 minutes late, you will receive no credit for attendance for the day.”

a reference guide
A Reference Guide
  • The syllabus is a reference for you
  • The syllabus is a reference for your colleagues
note keep a copy of every syllabus for your records
Note: Keep a copy of every syllabus for your records
  • Hard or electronic copy
  • For Annual Activity Reports
  • For Review Files
  • For reference when you teach the course again
  • Course designation = easy identification
rolling with the punches
Expect to make mistakes—the perfect syllabus is an ideal to strive for.

When students misread your syllabus, give them the benefit of the doubt.

Choose your battles, always keeping your overall goals in mind.

If you have to make a major change in mid-semester, go about it in the appropriate way.

Be aware of the process and timeline for student grievances.

Rolling with the Punches
a cognitive map
A Cognitive Map

Because students need to engage actively in creating their own cognitive maps, you can facilitate active learning by modeling the mapping process.

what is a graphic syllabus
What is a Graphic Syllabus?

Definition:

  • A flow chart, diagram, or topical organization of the course that complements the printed syllabus.
benefits of a graphic syllabus
Benefits of a Graphic Syllabus
  • Appeals to nonverbal learning styles
  • Models a learning tool by encouraging students to map course concepts
  • Reinforces memory
  • Offers the big picture without being over-laden with language
  • Forces us to tighten our own course organization and to clarify the enduring understandings and essential questions as well as the relationships among various units of instruction
  • Releases faculty creativity in course design
examples
Examples

See handouts with examples of graphic syllabi:

  • Social Stratification
  • Conservation Biology
  • Public Science Writing
variations in graphic syllabi
Variations in Graphic Syllabi
  • Shape, Shading, and Color of key enclosures, activities, assignments, etc.
  • Shape, Shading, and Color of Connecting lines
  • Type size, face, features (bold, italics)
  • Graphic metaphors or symbols
verbal visual variations

Case Method

Teaching Application

SL

PBL

Simulations

Verbal & Visual Variations

Verbal:

“When properly implemented, the case method, problem-based learning, (PBL), service-learning (SL), and simulations all teach students how to apply course material.”

Visual:

verbal visual variations44

Case Method PBL

    • SL Simulations

Teach Applications

Verbal & Visual Variations

Verbal:

“When properly implemented, the case method, problem-based learning, (PBL), service-learning (SL), and simulations all teach students how to apply course material.”

Visual:

verbal visual variations45

Case Method

SL

Teach

Application

PBL

Simulations

Verbal & Visual Variations

Verbal:

“When properly implemented, the case method, problem-based learning, (PBL), service-learning (SL), and simulations all teach students how to apply course material.”

Visual:

verbal visual variations46

Case Method PBL SL Simulations

Teach Application

Verbal & Visual Variations

Verbal:

“When properly implemented, the case method, problem-based learning, (PBL), service-learning (SL), and simulations all teach students how to apply course material.”

Visual:

verbal visual variations47

Teach Application

Case Method

PBL

SL

Simulations

Verbal & Visual Variations

Verbal:

“When properly implemented, the case method, problem-based learning, (PBL), service-learning (SL), and simulations all teach students how to apply course material.”

Visual:

verbal visual variations48

Case Method

Teach Application

PBL

SL

Simulations

Verbal & Visual Variations

Verbal:

“When properly implemented, the case method, problem-based learning, (PBL), service-learning (SL), and simulations all teach students how to apply course material.”

Visual: