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This issue of CDTL Brief features articles on Professional Development and Curriculum Design and its significance in higher education.

July 2009, Vol. 12 No. 3 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Processes in Module Planning
 
Assistant Professor Chan Chun Yong, Eric
Department of Pharmacy
 

Background

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 graduate.

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 course:

1. The specific learning goals we want to attain.

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.

Conclusion

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 experience.

References

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, from http://critical.tamucc.edu/~blalock/readings/tch2learn.htm

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.

 
 
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International Approaches to Aligning Learning-centred Curricula and Staff Development: Developing Scholarly Approaches to Curriculum and Pedagogical Practice in Higher Education
   
Specifying Learning Outcomes in Graduate Business Education— Insights on Theory and Practice
   
Traversing Borders, Integrating Knowledge(s)
   
Processes in Module Planning