Planning for authentic learning

Typically the course calendar and syllabus narrative are constructed to serve as an accounting of topics, tasks, readings, and due dates. However, by preparing supplemental assignment and activity documents to that set out the purpose, skills, knowledge, and task requirements, you will provide for your students with a meaningful learning information, and become more aware of what you are asking students to complete, and of how you can leverage assignment and activities to gather data about student learning in process and practice.

This page offers resources to follow up on the 4As video suggestions for mindfully planning these key components of Teaching for Learning.

Map out possible learning and teaching activities

Drawing on guidelines set out in “Backward Design - Sequencing Activities, Assignments, Assessments,”  draft a course calendar to:

  1. link overall learning aims to course units/themes/sessions as part of planning for which concepts to address, and what content to link to teaching and to learning; 
  2. plan learning work students will complete—from preparing for class homework to higher-stakes assessments; and,
  3. note potential teaching strategies that support targeted learning goals.

Think through two key questions as part of this mapping out:

  1. What concepts central to this course may be difficult for students?
  2. What can I have students do in class so that we work through the difficulties together?

Next, consider how you might use outside-of-class activities to engage students in their “first exposure” to a key concept, then how you can make use of interactive lecture and active processing and classroom assessment to work through those central, often difficult points during class time.

Develop class session plans

Consult the Classroom Patterns resource to begin developing two to three class session plans that could provide a foundation for face-to-face class sessions and online module organization. To maximize learning from outside class activities and to focus on aspects of mastery in class, review the “Teaching for Learning” resources below to think through the types of lectures you might incorporate, to determine roles for discussion in your course, and to determine whether team-based projects could support and deepen student learning.

Based on decisions will make as you review these resources, return to the course calendar mapping you’ve begun to now begin finalizing text/content choices as well as the placement of formative practice- and application-oriented activities and of summative assessments—those more formal assignments and exams through which students demonstrate their deep, aims-related learning.

Consult Teaching for Learning resources

  • From Homework to Learning Work – slides with talking points and resources addressing ways to create “preparing for class” activities: discussion moves from deep processing to orienting tasks to providing feedback.
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques – a matrix with descriptions of CATs and ideas for their use in sparking and assessing students’ learning
  • Types of Lectures – a focused listing that categorized lectures in terms of the level of student interaction, the classification of content, and the medium by which information is disseminated.
  • Getting Lecturers to Take Discussions Seriously,” an article by Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Preskill featured in To Improve the Academy (2000): 232-253. 
  • A Faculty Guide to Team Projects – a webpage for instructors who are 1) thinking about incorporating a team project into a course you teach, 2) revising past team or approaches to team projects, or 3) interested in addressing challenges your students have identified as part of learning to successfully navigate and complete cooperative and/or collaborative projects, whatever the course level.