CDCG Workshop Highlights

March 18, 2016

Inaugural Course Design for the Common Good workshop a success.

Twenty faculty from across St. Thomas came together on campus and online during the frigid weeks of January 2016 to re-imagine their courses and refresh their assignments for Spring semester. ‌

It was all part of the introductory Course Design for the Common Good (CDCG) workshop series offered by the Center for Faculty Development. Ann Johnson, Director of the Center for Faculty Development, envisioned the J-term workshop as a way for faculty to make a few strategic changes to assignments and class projects to strengthen student academic success and confidence as learners by uncovering implicit expectations that often function as a “hidden curriculum” in our courses. 

Photo showing four adults at a table working together on an assignment during the January 2016 Course Design for the Common Good workshop held by the Center for Faculty Development.Course Design for the Common Good is an approach to designing learning experiences that reach and support St. Thomas’ increasingly diverse student population. These strategies create the conditions that allow all students to thrive, and that is a big part of the “common good” we strive for as instructors.

Ann Johnson explains the idea behind the workshop series: “We all enter the classroom as teachers with the intention to include all of our diverse students in the learning process. But good intentions only go so far, and research suggests that our tried-and-true methods of teaching may not be serving all students equally.”

Part of the three-day blended workshop focused on transparency in teaching, which involves making assignments explicitly clear so all students can be successful. It’s a deceptively simple idea but, as faculty attendees quickly realized, one that is often overlooked in practice. Research from a national study shows that transparent teaching -- explicitly describing the "purpose, task, and criteria" of each assignment --  can bridge the gap in students’ understanding, and significantly increase the success rates for first generation students, multicultural students, and students with cognitive or physical disabilities.

For the faculty who braved the cold and carved out precious time during J-term to attend the CDCG workshop, adapting their assignments to increase transparency and finding new ways for students to demonstrate mastery of course content had a transformative impact on teaching practices:

"This workshop offered impactful techniques and concepts that will help me be a better instructor!"

“[I] will be much more mindful of my assignment guidelines and will begin to think about the idea of multiple modality and student choice to reach the variety of learners.”

“This is truly a 'don't miss' workshop! All faculty should take this workshop." 

"Clarity can be transformative!"

"Purpose, Task, and Criteria forces thoughtful planning by instructors."

Through active discussion with colleagues, personal reflection, and application of CDCG techniques to their own course assignments, faculty participants left the workshop with a deeper sense of what it means to help all St. Thomas students succeed and to advance the common good.

Interested in attending a workshop? Watch your St. Thomas email and visit the Faculty Development website for announcements of upcoming Course Design for the Common Good workshops and for additional professional development opporutnities. 

References & Resources

Additional information and research is available from the Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education project at University of Nevada, Las Vegas