The objective of this short communication is
to highlight some key processes that should be
considered in module planning. These include
clarification and specification of pedagogical
goals in designing students’ learning experience.
Assessment and feedback on learning are other
important processes that will not be addressed
in this article.
Clarifying pedagogical goals
Curriculum goals are derived from pedagogical
outcomes, namely basic and discipline-specific
competencies, which all students should attain
by graduation. For example, if public speaking
is identified as a basic competency that every student must have by graduation, then public
speaking skills must be intentionally taught
and reinforced, and no student should graduate
without receiving appropriate training and
practice in public speaking.
Faculty’s responses are remarkably consistent
when they are asked, “What basic competencies
or skills should every university student have
upon graduation?” These typically include
communication skills (e.g. writing, speaking,
reading and listening), mathematics (e.g.
basic statistics), problem solving, critical
thinking, interpersonal skills (e.g. working
in and leading groups), computer literacy and
interviewing skills. More recently the list
has expanded to include understanding and respecting diverse cultures, resource utilisation,
self-understanding, time management, conflict
resolution, willingness to take risks and the
ability to adapt to change and innovation. In
addition, discipline-specific skills that students
learn from core and elective modules form
a complete set of learning outcomes for each
Specifying pedagogical goals
The importance of specifying pedagogical goals
and the advantages of clearly-defined course
objectives are summarised below:
1. Facilitates consistency in assessments and grading
2. Helps faculty plan consistent learning goals as well as interrelated contents and assessments
3. Determines effective practices and course materials
4. Shifts the emphasis from what to cover to what competencies should students have
5. Leads to a logical pedagogical structure
6. Improves communication among faculty
7. Encourages students to do self-evaluation
8. Facilitates efficient learning
9. Helps students understand how each course is related to the other
It is equally important to break down broad
course objective statements to more specific ones
in order to see the above-mentioned advantages.
Furthermore, it is crucial to recognise and
classify the objectives appropriately (e.g.
cognitive versus affective) to meet the specific
needs of the programme.
Designing the learning experience
Once the goals of the course are determined
and defined, we begin to select and design
pedagogical formats to optimise students’ learning experience. In many instances, the design of our courses is determined more by
tradition, ease of implementation or our own
comfort level rather than the alignment of
pedagogical goals with classroom activities.
As we design the learning experience for
our students, we must not let our personal
preferences eliminate effective pedagogical
options. We may have to try new techniques or
get help from external resources.
As Barr and Tagg (1995) aptly put it: we should
move from the “instructional delivery system”,
where “faculty are conceived primarily as
disciplinary experts who impart knowledge by
lecturing” to the “learning paradigm” which “conceives of faculty as primarily the designers
of learning environments” where they “study
and apply best methods for producing learning
and student success.”
Three interrelated factors must be taken
into consideration when selecting the most
appropriate pedagogical approach for a given
1. The specific learning goals we want to
2. The research on learning.
3. The pedagogical options available to us.
These could include both structural options
(e.g. lecture, small-group activities, out-ofclass
experiences) and technology options
(e.g. media, computers).
This paper highlights the importance of
setting specific pedagogical goals. Research on
learning is an independent but pertinent topic
that is beyond the scope of the current paper.
However, it is important to read and learn the
findings on pedagogical methods based on
research so that we can design better learning
experiences for our students (Gardiner, 1994).
For example, teaching methods that take into
account students’ diverse learning styles have been found to be more effective. It was also determined that
students’ motivation to learn is alterable; it can be affected by
the task, the learning environment, the teacher and the learner
himself. Furthermore, new information, when presented in
meaningful and relevant ways is likely to be retained, learnt
and used. Finally, many pedagogical options are available to
faculty these days. The Centre for Development of Teaching
and Learning facilitates the acquisition of such knowledge by
organising regular courses and workshops.
In this short communication, we are reminded of the
importance of planning and setting pedagogical goals in
designing and enhancing students’ learning experience. While
it is important to plan our module based on these concepts, it
is also crucial to constantly align our pedagogical goals with
classroom activities so as to enhance our students’ learning
Barr R.B. & Tagg J. (1995). From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for
Undergraduate Education. Change 27(6), pp. 12–25. Retrieved 15 July 2009,
Gardiner L.F. (1994). Redesigning higher education: Producing dramatic gains
in student learning. Washington, D.C.: Graduate School of Education and
Human Development, George Washington University. Retrieved 15 July
2009, from http://www.ericdigests.org/1996-4/higher.htm.