Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why I Think The Fink Road Map is the Way to Go

I've made no secret of the fact that I believe the course design approach championed by Dee Fink is the one we ought to use as we design the Learning Frameworks course.

There aren't many times in life when you have an chance to spend a whole year with colleagues creating something that can potentially help many, many students for years to come. If we get it right, it'll be hugely important in the history of this district. If we give it less than our very best effort, it seems to me, we miss a real opportunity.

Sadly, I could write way too many pages describing why I believe this. I won't.

Here are my reasons -- in a nutshell.

1. Because it's theory based.

The 150 item bibliography in his book Creating Significant Learning Experiences and his frequent references to the literature of the scholarship of teaching and learning bear witness to the fact that he has done his homework. And 25 years working with the faculty at The University of Oklahoma and in consultancies across the country means this is not just ivory tower stuff.

Here's a simple example of how the theory based part helps. At our next committee meeting we'll be discussing the gathering of information from stakeholders -- students, instructors, community members, etc. Because we can connect that to what Fink calls identifying situational factors, we know the real reason we're doing it. He makes that clear: We need to know which factors are important for us and which we can safely set aside. If the identified important factors aren't accounted for well, we could end up with a course that doesn't work.

2. Because it actually is a course design method.

That may sound silly, but when one reads Fink's description of the method that most instructors use in developing a new course (Creating, p. 61) it becomes pretty obvious that something more systematic might be in order. Rather than doing the natural thing -- which is to start listing major topics to be covered, integral course design begins by asking more fundamental questions and building strong course components that will function together as a real system. His 12 step program and the order in which these are done insure that we'll not overlook anything important and that our concern with content won't overshadow other important aspects.

3. Because it makes explicit the pathway we're taking.

By demystifying the processes we're using to create the course, we make it possible for others to improve on what we've done. And if we've made any missteps others can more easily come along and do "course correction" because they'll know not only what we've done but why we've done it. And those who will ultimately teach the course will be able to understand much more deeply the decisions we make which will, in turn, free them to adapt (as all teachers will) in a way that does not depart from the spirit of what we're all trying to accomplish.

I could also say ...

... that that the whole thing just rings true to me and that it holds out the possibility of our creating something truly great! But I won't say that. Instead, I'll just shut up (finally).

Have a nice day. :)

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