This week we learned about the product and process models of curriculum development. The product model was developed by Tyler (1949) and places emphasis on plans, intentions and clear outcomes. The process model, in contrast, emphasizes activities, effects and life skills and tends to encourage more flexible outcomes. In disciplinary groups we discussed which of these two models tended to be more dominant in our programmes. In general, we felt that in the Natural Sciences the approach to curriculum development tends to be based more on the ‘product model’, as there is often a huge amount of information to get across, and much of it isn’t particularly ‘applied’.
However, we noted examples in our departments where a more process-based approach has been taken, such as in the skills-based ‘science communication’ course that I teach. The medics seemed to broadly agree that a combination can and should be applied in their discipline too, for similar reasons. Attempting to apply both models to our own disciplines highlighted the limitations of thinking about two polarized approaches, as in reality both offer useful insights and starting points, and need not be pitched against each other so strongly. One colleague made the useful observation that even the more experiential teaching exercises can remain firmly in the control of the teacher, thus straddling both models.
We then discussed ‘Backwards Design’ (Wiggins & McTighe, 2010). This model proposes that curriculum design should begin with desired final outcomes, from which one develops an appropriate mode of assessment (‘acceptable evidence’ that outcomes have been achieved), and finally the teaching strategies and student experiences themselves. I like the logic of this approach, as it encourages self-contained content and assessments and teaching strategies that are appropriate to the content.
When Keisha initiated a discussion about session planning, It became apparent that very few of us in the class physically writes down their lesson plans and teaching strategies, even though we all plan in our heads or with cues from our slides. I can certainly see great value in doing this, and will start to write mine down going forward. I also think this will be useful as part of a working document to record my reflections on how I feel a particular class has gone and how I would change/tweak next time. Such changes seem obvious at the time, but of course by next year I would be in danger of making the same mistakes again, without an annotated plan to refer to.
The ‘BOPPPS’ framework seems like a good starting point. This framework proposes that all lessons begin with a ‘Bridge in’ to hook learners into the day’s topic, followed by clearly stating the ‘Objectives’ of the class and conducting a ‘Pre-assessment’ to get an idea of how much the students already know. Then the ‘Participatory learning’ takes place, which is the core content of the class, followed by a ‘Post-assessment’ to gauge how much they took on, and finally a ‘Summary’ to recap and revise the class content. I had never consciously considered breaking down my sessions into components like this, although I realize I already do some of these things, sometimes, but maybe not always in the right order!
In the week since the CUTL session, I have already experimented by adding a ‘Bridge In’ to my classes, and it has worked fairly well. For example, I started one class by presenting a list of True-False questions that were used in an international survey to test the general public’s understanding of science, and got the students to give their answers before revealing how much/little the public understands about different scientific topics – of course, being scientists, the students did better than the general public, which illustrated the point well, as the rest of the class was about how we can bridge the gap between scientists and the public through better communication. I have attempted to include post-assessments and summaries more formally in my classes too, but so far I have found them to be a bit rushed and superficial – probably because I need to plan my time better within the class by actually writing down the time allocated to each component, so that I can conduct these in a more relaxed manner.
This is a place where I can reflect upon both on my teaching experiences as a new lecturer, and on my learning experiences as a student on the Certificate of University Teaching and Learning course.