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Lesson 6: Deciding on the Specific Course Content

Content refers to the subject matter "within which the learning experiences are embedded." (Stark and Lattuca 10) To determine what specific content will be addressed in the course, consider the following:

  1. Review textbooks and other material and then decide what areas support the outcomes.
  2. Consult with other instructors or professionals.
  3. Review other syllabi.
  4. Consider future trends in the discipline.
  5. Think about what needs to be covered in order to meet accreditation and licensure agreements.
  6. Think about what the students need and want to learn (uncover) versus what you want to cover.
  7. Think about how your course fits in with other courses, such as prerequisite courses and courses that follow.
    1. This is helpful in terms of avoiding duplication in content and in thinking about what it is students will need to learn in your course to succeed in subsequent courses. In fact, when deciding what is essential to cover, speak to instructors whose courses follow yours. You may be surprised by what they really want students to learn.
  8. To decide what content is essential, select content that is the basis or the foundation of the course. Select the most enduring issues and truths in relationship to the outcomes.
    1. Essential Content - What every student should know, do, or value to master the outcomes.
    2. Recommended/Optional/Nice to know content - What students with special interests or aptitudes might want.
  9. When determining what the specific course content will be and how it will be sequenced, it may be helpful to develop a course calendar to include the following: (This course calendar can be distributed to students on the first day of class.)
    1. All class periods
    2. Exams/quizzes, midterms, finals
    3. Review sessions
    4. Student presentations
    5. First day of class activities
    6. Feedback sessions
    7. Due dates for papers, projects, etc.

    Developing your course calendar will help you be more realistic in terms of how much content can be (un)covered given the number of exams, student learning activities, first-day-of-class activities, difficult concepts, etc.

    1. It might be appropriate to have the following line added to the bottom of your course calendar: "Timelines and assignments are an approximation. The instructor may change dates and assignments as needed. It is the student's responsibility to keep abreast of any changes."
  10. Keep in mind who your students are and their diverse learning styles, different languages, and learning abilities/disabilities.
  11. Frequently ask yourself "What is more important, promoting student learning or "covering" all of the content?"

Lessons: Index, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, References

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