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The promise of revised curriculum continues to taunt Alberta educators, and we continue to prepare ourselves for the unknown; I believe my English 30 teacher would have called this a juxtaposition! As part of my own preparation, I decided to take the online Instructional Design course from Mount Royal University.
I was roused by its description, as it seemed to align with the work I currently do, and I hoped it would also support my future work of supporting implementation of new curriculum. The course description read: Instructional Design– “Explore instructional design principles, characteristics of adult learners and their implications in designing an effective instructional program. Apply information about learning styles to the design of instructional learning outcomes. Write clear and concise performance outcomes and competencies in order to direct instructional design.”
Much of the information in the first 2 weeks of the course wasn’t new learning, but rather, strong reinforcement of what I already knew about learners and learning. To be given the opportunity to articulate my thoughts on paper and to have someone else read and find value in my thinking was very invigorating! Weeks 3 and 4 refreshed my brain with new learning, and I had a particularly strong “aha” moment that I described in this post on our online discussion board:
Aha! Learning Outcome Statements are NOT the same thing as curricular learning outcomes! Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) are derived from analysis of curricular outcomes; LOS articulate what the learner is able to do to demonstrate the learning. In my experience as an “instructional designer” in the role of a teacher, the curricular learning outcomes were the drivers for designing my instruction, for designing my teaching, learning and assessment materials- yikes!
What an AHA moment when I realized TODAY that NO WONDER it can be an exhausting task for teachers to design these materials. Classroom teachers are not basing the design and development of our materials on strong LOS, we are basing them on curricular learning outcomes that may or may not articulate what students are required to DO to demonstrate their learning. We are designing and developing materials that have students demonstrate their learning, when we’re not really clear on what those performances need to look like. We’re missing a critical step between curricular outcomes and assessment tasks; i.e. developing Learning Outcome Statements!
As a teacher, it seemed easier to design and develop Language Arts and Math course materials when I used the “illustrative examples” and “achievement indicators” in conjunction with the learning outcomes. Well, it’s no wonder I found that easier! The illustrative examples are a logical “step” in the process of bringing vague curricular outcomes to life in the course materials, as they articulate what the learner should be able To DO as a result of their learning. As it turns out, the illustrative examples serve the purpose of the LOS that guide instructors to design and select effective learning strategies, learning assessments and materials that align with the specified curricular learning outcomes.
Why isn’t an Instructional Design course a requirement for the Bachelor of Education? It would help teachers be so much more efficient, effective and confident!”
The ensuing comments for this post were evidence that my fellow educators in the course were in total agreement, and one even noted that she was going to write the Dean of Education a letter in this regard. The comments that resonated with me the most, though, were from two of the younger learners in our course, as they are written from the perspective of a student, and not from the perspective of a teacher.
Colt: “Being new to the field of education, it is great when others share their experiences with the group! I can recall being a student, and seeing curricular outcomes on course outlines, rather than a strong learning outcome statement. As a learner, it creates confusion when determining your personal level of success, and knowing what the needs are that you are expected to meet.”
Alena: “I second that Colt. I’m still fairly new to education as well but after learning all these awesome things it makes me realize more and more that we are not using a lot of strong learning outcome statements in our courses to create a clear path for learners to know what is expected of them.”
Of course I spent WAY too much time on the discussion board, and even more time perfecting my assignments, thinking, re-thinking, editing, re-editing… The estimated 15 hours per week turned out to be 30+ hours per week. On top of my already full work schedule, the addition of the course resulted in a very tiring 4 weeks without any down time- but the learning was so worth it and I don’t regret a minute of it. New curriculum, I can’t wait for you to roll out- I’m ready for you!
Why do we teach? To what extent does our work influence the lives of others, even when we’re not doing so intentionally?
I was inspired to write this post by an email message I received last week from my niece. The subject of her email was, “Why I teach…” and her message read:
“I received this email from a former student today. It was a much needed and infinitely appreciated reminder after a really tough first week back… xx”
And the forwarded email from her student read:
“Hello Mrs. ______!
I’m not sure if you will remember me or not, but this is ______ from the 2010 grad class. I just wanted to send you a quick message telling you how much I appreciated you as a teacher. Now that I am a full time University student, I can see how much I really learned in your English classes. I am so thankful that you pushed us to do the best we could and did not settle for average. I most likely did enjoy it at the time, and I am also sure thankful for it now! I feel I will do so much better in my English classes because I had you as a teacher. Your classes were definitely a highlight for me in High School and the class I always looked forward to.
I would also like to thank you for being a caring teacher. When my mom was sick, you were the only teacher who ever asked me how I was doing. That meant a lot to me, and made coming to school a little more bearable.
Thank you for all the hard work you do, and for being an amazing teacher!”
And the “disclaimer” that the student added to the bottom of the email said it all! “Please do not look at this email as an example of my writing ability. I just got out of class and am super tired.”
The letter from this student brought tears to my eyes; tears of pride at what an inspirational and caring teacher my niece is. Although I’ve never had the opportunity to teach with her, the passion and dedication she demonstrates for education tells me that she is, indeed, an amazing teacher.
So, as a proud aunt, I responded to my niece’s email, telling her, “This letter is a keeper! You definitely made a difference in her life, and I’m sure in the lives of many others who haven’t taken the time to express their feelings to you- so proud to call you my niece! xo”
The response I received back was a heartwarming surprise, and definitely made me realize why I teach:
“Thank you, Auntie Diane. Her email sure was a beautiful reminder. If only all the students whose lives we’ve touched could articulate it this well. And I’m sure glad that I had such a wonderful role model growing up that helped me decide to become a teacher. (Yes, I mean you!!) xoxo”
And now I’ll go get my Kleenex … and take some time to touch base with two other nieces who are also amazing teachers!
Why do you teach?
My blog provides a glimpse into some of the work I do, some of my educational beliefs, and a reflection of my ongoing learning.
I’ve titled my blog “Curriculum Candy” because discussion of curriculum sometimes leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths; it is my intention to share its sweet side.