|COURSE: Global Transition and Change: Commodity Culture (HIST 102) Twelve Objects that Changed the World (& one that changed Wisconsin)
DEPARTMENT: Department of History
INSTRUCTOR: Ariel Beaujot
LEAD DEVELOPER: Ariel Beaujot
“The Course Design Institute was one of the best workshops I have ever attended. It was well thought out and brilliantly delivered—full of practical advice on how to improve my teaching techniques and how to become a more conscientious syllabus writer.” Dr. Ariel Beaujot
Instructional Strategies & Assignments: In-Class & Out-of-Class
Skills Development and Backwards Design
YOUR KEY TEACHING AND LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES/CHALLENGES WHEN DESIGNING THIS COURSE
I wanted to make sure that I had various moments where the students could talk openly about their struggles with learning skills like taking notes, studying for exams, establishing bibliographies, writing essays etc. As a result, in the design of this course I have created skills workshops to help students work through and develop relevant abilities for their current and future success as university students.
Also, as a historian I wanted my course to begin with the premise that what we study is relevant to students in their daily lives rather than using with the past as the starting point. So I decided to begin each week with a class answering the ‘why do I care’ question. I want students to first think about their interaction with commodities like sugar, milk, and cotton today before they go on to learn the historical background of why the world commodity systems have been structured in certain ways. In order to create a student connection with the commodities I have come up with Mini Assignments each week to be completed by students throughout the week—these can be as simple as collecting a piece of their disposable coffee cups and noting upon this scrap the time and date that they drank it, or looking at a Wikipedia page about Nestlé boycotts of children’s formulas and following the links provided so that they can begin to create an opinion about the controversy. With these Mini Assignments the students will be connecting with the products that we are researching and learning about each week and they will be more likely to be interested in the historical background of the objects they consume.
YOUR BIGGEST “TAKE AWAY” FROM THE COURSE DESIGN INSTITUTE?
My biggest take away from the May 2011 Course Design Institute was the idea of designing the course based on the learning that I want students to achieve rather than the ‘best’ article I have identified in the field. By thinking of the student learning outcomes first I was able to be more targeted in my selection of readings and activities thereby allowing students to come to the intended understandings. Sometimes a less academic article might get an important idea across just as well or better than one written with academic jargon. I wanted the readings to speak to the sorts of questions that students might have not the ones that we have as academics.
Secondly I took away lots of group and individual learning techniques that I had not seen or understood in the past. The way that the instructors at the Course Design Institute modeled these techniques showed me how helpful they might be for student learning in general. These techniques vastly changed the way that I teach. I happened to be teaching a course at UTM as I took the Course Design Institute and I told the students that I was going to change the way class was structures—away from a seminar-type discussion towards more varied forms of participation. I began to use 2 minute papers, mind maps, or do a think-pair-share activity when I really wanted students to grapple with a specific issue or point. Many of the students in the class said that they were aspiring teachers so I asked them to identify what technique I was using and whether or not they found it effective. In their answers they also identified how the learning techniques helped change the way they understood a particular issue, helping them think more deeply on a topic. One student wrote in his student evaluation that he was excited to come to class to see what new ways we would learn.
CDI – Learner-Centred Perspective on Course Design
DID YOU SEEK ANY ADDITIONAL SUPPORT (e.g. CONSULTATION, PRINT OR ONLINE CTSI RESOURCE) IN TERMS OF DESIGNING YOUR COURSE? WHAT HELPED YOU?
- I did a one-on-one consultation related to my draft syllabus with a CTSI staff member who had also led the CDI. It was very helpful to have someone workshop ideas with me.
- I am using CTSI’s Gathering Formative Feedback with Mid-Course Evaluations guide for faculty to establish a mid-course evaluation. Not sure yet how this will work out but I want to get feedback from students before the course is over
- I ordered one of the suggested books from the CDI on creating a collaborative classroom. I pull this off my shelf every time I want to use a new teaching technique.
- I also used the CTSI website to check out ideas for teaching my first class—and decided on the ‘Say Something’ technique to help students really look through the syllabus and engage in discussion with their peers on the very first class.
YOUR NEXT STEPS
Teaching the course.