Designing Your Courses
Even if you have extensive experience as a teaching assistant, or have taught as a lecturer, you have probably never designed a course from scratch. You will need to decide what to teach, how to organize that material, and how to assess whether your students are learning what you want them to learn. Here are resources to help you get started.
Images and text from Barb Tewksbury's Planetary Geology syllabus, courtesy of Barb Tewksbury.
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Cutting Edge Course Design Resources
On the Cutting Edge maintains a number of different kinds of course design resources:
- The Cutting Edge Online Course Design Tutorial: Barbara Tewksbury and Heather Macdonald have developed a course design process that is highly successful in helping faculty design effective and innovative courses. Working through their tutorial is an excellent way to design a course and explore a variety of classroom an assignment strategies. Here's a brief synopsis of the course design process used in the tutorial.
- A course design resource page with links to a goals/syllabus data base, the online course design tutorial referred to above, and the Cutting Edge course design workshops for undergraduate faculty.
- A list of references about course design and related topics, from the Cutting Edge Course Design Tutorial.
- A browsable and searchable collection of topical resources in a variety of geoscience and education topics. These collections can be accessed through the Cutting Edge home page.
Additional Resources on Course Design
- This online design guide ( This site may be offline. ) is an outstanding resource for anyone who wants to develop Earth system science courses or programs. It includes an extensive collection of exemplary Earth System Science modules, sections on the scientific framework for Earth System Science and on data, tools, and models, and much more.
From Rick Reis' Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List
- Designing Courses describes a method of course design in which the instructor begins by identifying course learning goals, then builds the course content around ways to help students achieve those goals.
- How to Prepare New Courses While Keeping Your Sanity describes a few simple strategies for preventing your new course preparation from taking over your life. Fortunately, they dovetail nicely with best practices in teaching.
- Science Education for Everyone: Why and What? addresses the question of what general science education every student ought to have -- particularly those who will never become scientists.
- What Do You Want Your Students To Be Doing 20 Years From Now? considers four key elements of literacy that go beyond the obvious reading, writing, and basic mathematics, to the acquisition of knowledge and skills that support lifelong learning, problem solving, decision making, and mentoring.
- Building Cognitive Assemblies: An Exercise in Course Design is a model for course design based on the premise, "You are not done preparing a course when you can't fit any more material into it, you are done when you can't take any more material out of it."
On How People Learn
- Teaching Science: What Research Tells Us about the learning process. This page is a summary of a presentation by Robyn Wright Dunbar on what works, in science education. Robyn is the Senior Associate Director for Science and Engineering at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University. She gave the presentation on which this page is based at the Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences workshop.
On Integrating Research into Courses
- Integrating Research into Geoscience Courses. Incorporating real research experiences into your teaching can be beneficial to both you and your students. At the 2005 Workshop on Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences, Rachel Beane (Bowdoin College) and Steven Wojtal (Oberlin College) hosted a session on this subject. This page is a summary of their session, with descriptions of several assignments that have students participate in the research process in some way.
On Service Learning
- Public Outreach and Service Learning. This page is a summary of a presentation by Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, defining service learning and describing its benefits. Lesley-Ann teaches in the Department of Geogrphy at the University of Vermont. She gave the presentation on which this page is based at the Preparing for a Career in the Geosciences workshop.
- The National Service Learning Clearinghouse (more info) homepage. The National Service Learning Clearinghouse provides an extensive description of service learning, pages of resources (including lesson plans and syllabi), and links to sources of funding for service learning projects.
- Observing and Assessing Student Learning. These pages developed from the 2005 Cutting Edge Workshop on Student Learning, and include descriptions of many different kinds of assessment techniques, with geoscience examples of each.
- The Starting Point page on Assessment discusses the functions and importance of assessment, and gives examples of different assessment strategies, as well as some ideas about how to use assessment in different learning settings.
- Assessing Teaching and Learning. This page is a summary of a presentation by Robyn Wright Dunbar on assessment. Robyn is the Senior Associate Director for Science and Engineering at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University. She gave the presentation on which this page is based at the Preparing for a Career in the Geosciences workshop.