Aligning What We Teach with How We Teach It
After identifying learning outcomes and methods for assessing them, the next step is identifying the instructional strategies that you will use. Instructional strategies are described in more detail in the next section.
- Alignment: Work to align your teaching strategies with your learning outcomes and assessments. Clear alignment helps students understand how various parts of the course fit together, which in turn helps them learn.
- Practice with feedback: Students need multiple opportunities to practice using the knowledge and skills they are learning, along with timely feedback. Frequent, low-stakes assignments help keep students from falling behind and also help you identify aspects that need more explanation. Review your learning outcomes to moments to build in opportunities for practice and feedback (e.g., practice problems, low-stakes online quizzes, assignments with peer feedback, in-class polling questions).
- Motivation, curiosity, and relevance: Students learn better when they are motivated and understand the relevance of the material. Grades are one form of motivation, but curiosity and a sense of relevance are also strong motivators. Cultivate curiosity by designing activities with a compelling mystery or problem to be investigated or by offering students a choice in what they investigate. To foster a sense of relevance, use assignments such as community-engaged projects or service learning, case studies or highlight ways people use this knowledge or skill in projects and careers.
- Interactive classroom activities: Find ways to include activities for student interaction in your classes. For example, break a lecture into shorter segments with time for pair or small-group discussions or activities that ask students to practice or apply what they have just learned (e.g., solve a problem, analyze a reading passage, compose music, etc.). These strategies help students learn more effectively and also help create a positive classroom climate by providing opportunities for productive discussions.
- Communicating expectations: Students benefit from clear expectations for learning activities. For example: What are your expectations for class participation? How does participation link to learning outcomes? How should students prepare? How will they be graded? Similarly, what are your expectations for group collaboration on a project? Consider also asking students to work together to clarify their own expectations for class discussions or group work.