Contributor: Karin Barac
At universities a lot of program and course design talk tends to stay at the high level of notions of aligning program learning outcomes, graduate attributes, course learning outcomes and assessment. The real work of course design is making this all happen in concrete ways for the students through the bulk of the course – the weekly learning and teaching activities. Before we get started on sequencing learning activities the following video is going to give you a crash course on some of the key educational theories and frameworks that underpin these types of discussions (constructive alignment and Bloom’s Taxonomy).
Designing Learning Sequences
So let’s look at some constructive alignment in action that takes into account Bloom’s Taxonomy within a course.
The first example we have is from a Masters level course where students are examining the theories of language teaching in weekly reading groups that culminates in a major research essay as the final assessment.
The reading groups are scaffolding the student skills as it gives them an opportunity to start building their research skills on individual readings, practice their reflective skills, and gain feedback through peer interactions on a weekly basis. The specifications of the Reflective Journal task (which is due mid-way through the course) ask the students to choose 4 topics to do initial research and reflection on. This scaffolds the students to completing the final essay by choosing one of those 4 topics to expand on in length.
The next example takes a more detailed approach to breaking down the learning activities by looking at the scaffolding of weekly activities in an online course. Online courses need to be highly structured, with a strong pathway between the independent and collaborative learning activities.
This diagram shows how each activity builds to the culminating Collaborate session in the week and how these have been structured to support the students in completing Assessment 1. This has also been mapped to show the intended level of Bloom’s that each activity serves. By doing this mapping one can start to decide what kind of questions need to be asked at these stages as the questions are what define the level of Bloom’s the activity serves. For example, a synchronous Collaborate session could easily only serve Understanding if the teacher decides to deliver a lecture in that session only utilising the polling feature. A Collaborate session can reach Analysis level if the teacher chooses to pose scenario questions and utilises the Break out rooms for students to work through the scenario problem together.
To help with the design of learning activities and the questions you might ask of students to work through Blooms, we have designed this activity wheel that helps you make some design choices. The wheel is not exhaustive of all the possible choices but it can give you a start.