Five Criteria of “Good Course” Design
These five simple concepts will help achieve student learning outcomes by engaging students with the materials and providing course structure and consistency.
- Challenge students to HIGHER LEVEL LEARNING: All courses require some “lower level” learning, i.e., comprehending and remembering basic information and concepts. But many courses never get beyond this. Examples of “higher level learning” include problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, and creative thinking.
- Use ACTIVE FORMS OF LEARNING: Some learning will be “passive”, i.e., reading and listening. But “higher level learning,” almost by definition, requires active learning. One learns to solve problems by solving problems; one learns to think critically by thinking critically; etc.
- Give FREQUENT and IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK to students on the quality of their learning: Higher level learning and active learning require frequent and immediate feedback for students to know whether they are “doing it” correctly. “Frequent” means weekly or daily; feedback consisting of “two mid-terms and a final” is not sufficient. “Immediate” means during the same class if possible, or at the next class session.
- Use a STRUCTURED SEQUENCE OF DIFFERENT LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Any course needs a variety of forms of learning (e.g., lectures, discussions, small groups, writing, etc.), both to support different kinds of learning goals and different learning styles. But these various learning activities also need to be structured in a sequence such that earlier classes lay the foundation for complex and higher level learning tasks in later classes.
- Have a FAIR SYSTEM FOR ASSESSING AND GRADING STUDENTS: Even when students feel they are learning something significant, they are unhappy if their grade does not reflect this. The grading system should be objective, reliable, based on learning, flexible, and communicated in writing.
Adapted from: Fink, L.D. (1999). Fink’s Five Principles of Good Course Design. University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, July 19, 1999. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from Honolulu Community College Faculty Development Web page: http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/finks5.htm
Center for Instructional Development and Research. (1999). Designing a Course. Teaching and Learning Bulletin, 2(1). Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Washington CIDR Web site: http://depts.washington.edu/cidrweb/Bulletin/CourseDesign.html#
Center for Instructional Development and Research. (1999). Transforming a Course. Teaching and Learning Bulletin, 2(4). Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Washington CIDR Web site: http://depts.washington.edu/cidrweb/Bulletin/Transforming.html#
Davis, B.G. (1999). Preparing or Revising a Course. Tools for Teaching. Berkeley: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from Honolulu Community College Faculty Development Web page: http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/prepcors.htm