ASU Faculty Use Summer as a Time for ReDesign
Some 26 faculty members at Appalachian State wouldn’t have any trouble writing an essay on how they spent their summer. They were busy infusing new energy into a course they had identified earlier in the year as a target for redesign. Their efforts weren’t undertaken in a vacuum, however, because they were allparticipants in Appalachian’s Course (Re)Design Institute sponsored by the Hubbard Programs for Faculty Excellence as part of the College Star component B program supporting faculty.
The journey began in April as part of a hybrid face-to-faceand in-person institute. After 15 hours of individual preparation, participants met as a group for a week in May and then continued their course revision work throughout the summer.
“The course provided an in-depth look at an integrated approach to designing courses that would enhance student learning and engagement,” said Dr. Tracy W. Smith, professor of curriculum and instruction and facilitator of the institute. “Our participants included tenured and non-tenured faculty and came from a variety of disciplines across campus.”
Smith said she felt the broad representation was a real strength of the institute. “It builds community among faculty for the heart of what we do at the university—teaching,” she said. Dee Fink’s book Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing Courses was a key focus of the course.
In addition, participants learned about and were challenged to incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into their courses. UDL principles can guide the design of instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials so that more students’ individual needs are met.
Dr. Lindsay Masland, a participant in the 2014 workshop, served as leader of the UDL strand of the Institute in 2015 and found it interesting to be on the other side. “I have found that in teaching UDL, it’s best not to start from a point of disability,” she said. “My colleagues at the university love learning and have been successful students themselves, so starting from that point doesn’t resonate with them. Instead, I like to focus on whether or not we are measuring things we don’t care about.
“For example, she continued, “in most jobs, you don’t have to write something in 90 minutes. If we give in-class tests where students have to perform on the spot, we are putting up irrelevant barriers and creating crippling test anxiety. The only barriers we want are the ones we can teach people to overcome.”
Other institute collaborators included Emory Maiden from Learning Technology Services and Lillian Goudas from University College. Participants were introduced to strategies such as World Café Conversations, Incubator Discussions, and Paideia Seminars.
One participant wrote:
“This institute helped me to form a better understanding of how to be a more effective instructor. My achievements included becoming aware of situational factors, learning about significant learning experiences, and the human significance of good teaching and learning. Most importantly, I became aware of how changing my assignments, syllabi, and activities, etc. contribute to the success of my classes. I found this institute to be more than faculty development—it created awareness of all aspects of teaching and learning."
The institute gave participants an opportunity to learn how they could incorporate Appalachian State priorities such as sustainability, global learning, social justice, civic engagement and service learning into their re-designed courses.