Friday, July 15, 2011

New Course Goals--or, Lots of Work for Little Change

After working my way through Dee Fink's "Self-Directed Guide for Designing Course for Significant Learning," and studying the University and departmental goals, I've come up with a new value statement and list of course goals for British Literature II.

This is the new value statement (there wasn't an old one): "In this general education course, you will be introduced to a range of British literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to broaden your historical and cultural perspectives, deepen your understanding of self and society, and provide personal enrichment." These 3 areas are based upon my university's description of general education courses. I'm pleased with the personal-growth aspect of this statement. 

These were my old course goals: 
  • To broaden your understanding of British literary history and our cultural heritage.
  • To enhance your ability to comprehend literature through close attention to the text and its patterns.
  • To improve your writing. I encourage you to visit during my office hours or by appointment to have me look over your drafts or just to discuss ideas. I will also answer questions about your thesis or specific parts of your essay by email, though I will not read entire drafts by email.
  • To make critical thinking a habit. Once you make a practice of consciously interpreting texts, you will find it easier to think critically about other elements of your life and society.
  • To increase your enjoyment of literature.
I was dissatisfied with these goals because (a) they aren't specific, (b) they're not exciting to me (probably because I've had them for so long, and (c) the hierarchy is unclear. Most importantly, they weren't fully supported by the course design. What activities were designed to increase enjoyment? I did encourage students to say things they liked and disliked, but this really wasn't sufficient. How was I assessing enjoyment?

These are the new goals: 
  • To analyze and interpret texts using the tools and vocabulary of literary analysis;
  • To place those texts within historical and aesthetic contexts;
  • To gain insight into the human experience. What is it like to grow up, to grow old, to be an outsider, to be an insider, to love, to mourn, to struggle, to sacrifice?
  • To reflect on personal values and beliefs;
  • To use technology to achieve these goals.
The goals in red are adapted from my department's description of the undergraduate studies program.The third goal is what I think is most valuable about reading literature. The fifth goal I have some doubts about listing, but adding it as a goal reminds me to provide support for the technical aspects of the course. You'll notice that I've cut "critical thinking"--because it's too vague and it's covered by the first 4 goals. I've also cut the writing goal, since the survey course is Writing Emphasis, not Concentration in Writing. Writing is an important part of the course, but actually I use writing to achieve the other goals instead of focusing on writing per se. I'm a little worried that I've cut the "British" part of the goals, but to me it seems implicit in goal 2.

What's most important about the course goals is how they're tied to the value statement and especially to course activities and assessment. Goals 1 & 2 are assessed through formal papers and tests. Goals 3 & 4 will be assessed through 5 required blog posts or journal entries. I've decided to cut the midterm exam in order to make room for the blogs.

The next step is thinking about unit goals and which readings best match them.

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