Design Tips and Forms

Design Tips and Forms

Here are some documents with ideas and information that may be valuable to anyone trying to design their courses.  The  items shown in dark blue are links to documents.

These are organized around the main tasks in Fink’s Model of Integrated Course Design.


The first first step in the process of designing a course is to gather information about various “Situational Factors”.  The link below gives a list of factors that sometimes affect the decisions we make in the design process.  Information about the “Specific Context” will always be important.  The other factors are sometimes important for a particular course, sometimes not.  We need to decide which ones are and gather information about them.

Situational Factors to Consider When Designing a Course

“A Primer on Writing Effective Learning-Centered Course Goals” – by Bob Noyd, Air Force Academy

When the Air Force Academy decided to move all courses toward being more learning-centered, they realized their faculty would need to write good learning goals for their courses.  Bob Noyd put this document together to help them do that.

Note:  This also contains a list of verbs associated with each of the 6 kinds of learning in Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, on p. 4.

Writing Good Learning Goals – by Robert Noyd, US Air Force Academy

Activities for Active Learning

When we want to use active learning in our courses, what are the activities that support the three major functions of active learning:  Providing students with information and ideas, Providing them with “doing” or “observing” experiences, and Providing them with opportunities to reflect on their learning?

Based on a review of many good courses described in the literature of teaching and learning, here is a table of multiple, specific kinds of learning activities, categorized by the function they serve.

Multiple Activities To Support Active Learning

Assessing Different Kinds of Significant Learning

Many people struggle with the task of assessing the learning goals in Fink’s Taxonomy that are not strictly cognitive.  This list offers a list of various ways available for assessing student learning in each of the six categories.

Procedures for Assessing Different Kinds of Significant Learning

LAT Quick Reference Guide

Barkley & Major, in their book on “Learning Assessment Techniques“,  identified 50 different assessment techniques, all related to one or another of the kinds of learning in the Taxonomy of Significant Learning [see this website, “Books on Related Topic”].  In this book is their Quick Reference Guide that provides a short description of each of the 50 Techniques.

LAT Quick Reference

Forms That Help Integrate Your Course

Here are two basic forms that help make your course properly integrated:

3-Column Table – Blank Form

Two Forms for Building a Weekly Schedule

This document contains two forms for this part of Integrated Course Design:

The Basic Form lays out the time structure of a course, and you need to identify the learning and assessment activities for each week.  This form was set up for a course that meets 3 days a week for 15 weeks.  If your course has a different time structure, you will need a form with a different number of rows and columns.

The second form is a more recent and more refined framework for accomplishing this task.  It distinguishes three kinds of purposes for different course activities and gets them chronologically connected.

Examples of 3-Column Tables and a Weekly Schedule for Specific Courses

When working on creating your own 3-column table and weekly schedule, it can be helpful to see some examples from other courses.  Here are some examples:

3-Column Tables from 3 Different Courses

Weekly Schedule – An Example from Dee Fink’s course

Forms for Integrating Totally Online (T.O.) Courses

The form for creating a “Weekly Schedule” (shown above) was designed for and works well for Face-to-Face (F2F) courses.  But we had to create something different for T.O. courses.  The first form below is a template for identifying the activities needed in each unit or module of a T.O. course; the second shows a powerful sequence of activities, i.e., a possible teaching strategy, for a T.O. course.

Teaching Strategies

All teachers need a powerful teaching strategy, i.e., a particular combination and sequence of teaching/learning activities that build throughout the course and result in high-powered learning by the end of the course.

Teachers can create their own teaching strategy or apply a general strategy to their particular course and subject matter.  One particularly valuable general teaching strategy is “Team-Based Learning.”  Below is a link to a new 12-minute video about team-based learning, including interviews with both teachers and students about its value.  [This was created by Michael Sweet at the University of Texas.]

Video about “Team-Based Learning”

A Rubric for Assessing Your Course Syllabus

Michael Palmer and his colleagues at the University of Virginia have created an award-winning rubric for assessing the degree to which a course syllabus is learning-centered.  It is based on the Taxonomy of Significant Learning and the model of Integrated Course Design.

Getting Students On-Board with New Ways of Teaching

One of the common challenges of using new ways of teaching is that students resist  and offer push0back.  What can we do about that as teachers?

An extraordinary idea has been created and offered by Prof. Gary Smith at the University of New Mexico.  This article was published in the “National Teaching & Learning Forum.”   Prof. Smith posed two special questions to students on the first day of class.  These questions had a major impact on students’ readiness to embrace a new way of teaching.

Impact of First-Day Questions

Creating a “String of Activities”

One idea that Fink had after writing his 2003 book, was to create a “string of activities” in a course that would work, step-by-step, toward a culminating project that supported one or more major learning goals for the course.  This link describes one particularly effective String of Activities for one of his courses.

String of Activities – An Example