Creating undergraduate course materials to demonstrate best practices

by Julie Dodd

The assignment to create materials for an undergraduate communications course gives you the opportunity to plan a course that you would like to teach (or that you already teach and would like to improve) and to demonstrate best practices for teaching and learning.

You are drawing from your own experience as teaching assistants and from our work this semester, including readings such as “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips,” “Who Gets to Graduate?” and “Rebooting the Academy.”

You are designing your course as if you were teaching it at UF during Fall Semester 2015. You are keeping the various UF calendar dates in mind and are following UF’s guidelines for syllabi. [For example, Ligia Cervera’s teaching presentation on working with students with learning disabilities was an excellent reminder of how important it is to include in your syllabus information on UF resources.]

An important component of the syllabus is the timeline. You list every class meeting and indicate the topic for each class (not just a chapter number), any assignments or quiz/test for that date, and any assigned readings.

[You’ve submitted a draft of the syllabus and we did a critique in class.]

Class-by-class plan
The syllabus is the document you provide your students to help them know your expectations for them, the grading standards, the topic for each class meeting, test and assignment deadlines, etc. The class-by-class plan is for you as the instructor.

You start with the syllabus timeline and expand each class meeting, listing the objectives for each class and what activities you will be using during that class. Such a plan helps you in thinking about different approaches to use for teaching and learning. You will want to use direct instruction (lecturing), but you want to include active learning. Think about how you can incorporate pair-share discussions, one-minute papers, role playing, audio visuals, teamwork, etc.

[You’ve submitted a draft of three class-by-class plans. You now need to develop that kind of brief explanation for every class meeting.]

Lesson plans
You are creating lesson plans for the equivalent of two to three hours of instruction. If your class meetings one hour, three times a week, you will be creating two lesson plans. If you are teaching a two-hour or three-hour block, you are creating one lesson plan. The lesson plan should include the notes/outline you would teach from, your slides if you are using slides, and links or handouts to materials you and the students would be using (i.e., case studies, YouTube video).

[You submitted a draft, and I will be providing feedback.]

Student assessment tool
Your course should include a variety of approaches to assessing student performance. Depending on the SLOs for the course, you may be using projects, multiple small writing assignments, quizzes and exams, group work, and individual and group presentations. For your course development assignment, you are to develop one major assignment. That can be an exam with the answers or a major project. The project should include the handout of directions the students would receive and the rubric that you would use in explaining and for grading their projects.

If you are developing a group project, you should read Tianduo Zhang’s blog post on Strategies for designing group projects.

[The assessment tool is due emailed to me on March 22, and we’ll do a critique in class the next day.]

Your undergraduate course package
The final package consists of those previously listed components. You will use the feedback the class and I have provided and update the entire package. You’ll realize that improving your assessment tool, for example, may mean changing activities in a previous class meeting, such as adding a small-step checkin activity for a big project. You may reorganize some dates in your timeline.

Your final package is due April 6. We’ll talk about the format for the final package — online and/or print. An objective is to incorporate some of the course package in the online teaching portfolio that you will be creating as the last assignment of the semester.


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