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Rethinking Content Coverage

I am excited to be leading a workshop on this topic at the 2017 UWGB Faculty Development Institute, which will take place on the UWGB campus on January 19, 2017. An abstract follows.

As experts in our disciplines and professions, we sometimes forget that we developed our mastery of content knowledge in tandem with—not prior to—understanding, judgment-making abilities, and disciplinary skills.  While it might be possible for students who are inundated with a large volume of content to retain some factual and conceptual information, a pedagogy driven primarily by the imperative to cover content leaves many students holding a bag of disconnected pieces—and the bag probably has a hole in it.  Even “active learning” strategies focused on content mastery (isolated from application of content) can only go so far in helping students develop the deep understanding and disciplined modes of thinking that would allow them to apply what they know.  Participants in this workshop will learn about and discuss several concrete strategies for moving beyond coverage in a way that will allow students to practice applying “content” as they learn it deeply. This workshop will challenge participants to consider what their students might be able to accomplish if content is conceived of as a raw material that students must transform into knowledge, rather than as a finished product that they receive.  Participants will review the “backward design” strategy of course development, which draws attention to what students will be able to do as a result of completing a class.  Additionally, participants will consider a strategy for bringing the highest learning goals for a class into alignment with the assignments, assessments, and pedagogical techniques used in the course.