Cutting Edge > Courses > Course Design > Course Design Tutorial > Faculty professional development > Why use our format?

If you have dropped in from somewhere else, you might wish to start with the either the introduction to our Course Design Tutorial itself or the introduction page for faculty professional development for those who want to adapt or adopt our Course Design workshop.

Why use our course design workshop format?

Participant discussion at course design workshop
Ours is not the only approach to course design, and many other viable approaches to course design exist. Why do we think our approach is a useful one to consider?


We know that our course design strategy works. We have successfully run course design workshops for hundreds of undergraduate geoscience faculty through On the Cutting Edge. Our survey data and participant comments indicate not only that our relatively short, intensive workshop is successful in helping faculty design or re-design a particular course, but also that our workshops have changed participants' thinking about course design and have had a lasting and far-reaching impact on other courses that our participants teach.

  • "A major breakthrough for me was learning how to build a course around a set of goals. This seems like such an obvious necessity, but, before the workshop, I did not think in those terms. By setting goals first, everything else follows: content, types of coverage, activities, methods, etc. This realization affects all of my teaching now as I develop new classes or slowly revamp repeat courses." (Brandon Schwab, Humboldt State University)
  • "I've designed this course using everything I learned at the workshop last summer, and I've thrown my comfortable, well-used teaching style and methods out the window. We're now in week 5, and I've got to tell you, it is one awesome class!" (Winnifred Kortemeier, Western Nevada Community College)
  • "I overhauled the content of two courses to be goals-based; the goals are very focused on improved student thinking and problem solving and much less on specific content; my classes are better organized; I spend more time with different types of assessment to see if I'm achieving my goals, not just to give a grade." (Charlotte Mehrtens, University of Vermont)
  • "Before I attended the workshop, I considered myself an effective teacher. But, I had the focus all wrong. Now I see how effectively my students can learn." (Michael Fenster, Randolph-Macon College)
  • "The workshop helped me to articulate explicit goals for the course. In order for students to achieve those goals, I realized I needed to revise my teaching methods and course content." Carol Ormand, Wittenberg College
  • "I also used the method of course design and many of the teaching methods in developing a new first year seminar." Laura Moore, Oberlin College
  • "Our department is very fortunate. Four of the six full-time faculty members in our department have taken this workshop. We are in the midst of major curriculum changes as a result." (Jeanette Sablock, Salem State College)

Our workshop structure allows faculty to make significant progress toward course design or redesign over a period of four days and to leave the workshop feeling confident in being able to carry through with the plan.

  • On a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high), overall satisfaction with the workshop has ranked between 9 and 10 each time we have offered the workshop.
  • A majority of participants have given a 4 (strongly agree) on a scale of 1-4 for the following statements:
    • a) I made significant progress towards designing/revising my course.
    • b) I am leaving the workshop with clear goals for the course, a concrete plan for achieving those goals, a detailed course outline, and preliminary plans for specific activities.
    • c) I am confident that I will be able to complete the revisions/design work in my course after the workshop.
    • d) I found the goals-setting process a useful way of approaching course design/revision
    • e) I will use the process that I learned in the workshop for course design/revision when I design/revise future courses.
  • A follow-up survey sent to participants a minimum of a year after the workshop indicates that the workshop provided faculty with the motivation and tools to follow through after the workshop. Over 90% of those who responded indicated that they were able to follow through in developing a course based on the goals that they had set during the workshop, and over 80% of them indicated that they had used our approach to course design in developing subsequent courses or curricula.

Our workshop structure helps overcome faculty resistance.We have been very successful at engaging the typical faculty member who has had no course work in education, who has little familiarity with the literature about pedagogy, and who is suspicious of (or perhaps even hostile to!) workshops full of education jargon.

Our course design philosophy works well in a variety of workshop formats.In addition to running four-day workshops for geoscience faculty, we have had several years of success with adapting the workshop for an audience of mixed disciplines and with workshop experiences of various lengths. At the Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER) 2004 Summer Institute, for example, our session on course design was the highest rated session in the entire five-day Institute. We have also had a year of experience with an on-line version of the workshop using our course design tutorial.


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©2005 On-line Course Design Workshop and Tutorial developed by Dr. Barbara J. Tewksbury (Hamilton College) and Dr. R. Heather Macdonald (College of William and Mary) as part of the program On the Cutting Edge, funded by NSF grant DUE-0127310.


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