Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

September 17, 2008

Putting it into action

Filed under: Week 2 — Lisa M Lane @ 4:34 pm

So far, the most practical element I’ve gotten from the reading is Downes’ idea that teaching is modeling and demonstration, and learning is practice and reflection. I have taken it so much to heart that it is changing how I do my job in my face-to-face classes.

Like many institutions, we have been under pressure to develop Student Learning Outcomes that can be assessed. As a great proponent of academic freedom, I have helped developed for my discipline some very broad outcomes that give each instructor the opportunity to assess similar skills while each using their own examples and tests. I am thus free to create my own evolving list, in addition to the formal SLOs, of things I think students should be able to do as a result of taking my history class.

I’ve begun a pattern of lecturing with slides every Monday, after they’ve done their homework. Their homework consists of reading a chapter from the text and writing a mini-essay with a clear thesis, supported by information implied by the list of chapter terms. This way they have to use the material, not just read it. Then I’ve been making the lecture available in audio also, which I hadn’t planned to do, but my little Phillips MP3 player, Zoho Show, and Slideshare has made it drop-dead simple.

But on Wednesdays, I find myself (yes, that’s really how it feels) doing other things that are more modeling and demonstrating. One of the skills is text glossing, and instead of explaining it, I photocopied a scene from Oedipus Rex onto a transparency, and sat at the overhead glossing it with their help. Here’s what we developed:

I’ve also handed out maps, have them try to place things on their own, then encourage them to compare what they’ve done with not only their book but with their colleagues, to consider their colleagues as sources of information. I’ve handed out a document, given them class time for reading and reflection, then had them take those ideas to their groups. My attitude is good, I have lots of energy doing all this, and the students seem to be responding, although I can tell the class is very difficult for some of them.

So although some of my posts may make me appear overly skeptical, I am learning a great deal that I’m applying right away, even within the context of our assessment-bound, expert-ruled, poorly connected, industrialized community college experience.


  1. We write observable student objectives for each course (corporate ed), the idea being that once someone goes through a course there are specific, observable things they should be able to do. We use the objectives to help us build our certification exams.

    So, don’t you think that having the objectives keeps a course on track? I mean, you can take any instructional route appropriate to get the goal, but shouldn’t the goal at the end of your time with the student be that that can do __________?

    Comment by gminks — September 18, 2008 @ 3:28 am

  2. In liberal arts, I hope this is more difficult. “Compentency” in history should not be as specifically measured. The particular “objectives” you mention are what we would call “outcomes” in our system. For this class (Western Civ), these are the same for all Humanities-based General Education History classes:

    At the end of the class, students should be able to:
    1. construct a historical thesis that could be supported by selected primary sources from the era covered by the course
    2. estimate the correct era from which a primary source derives
    3. articulate the causal and/or consequential elements of an event from the era covered by the course
    4. analyze cultural expressions as evidence of an historical theme

    In order to do these effectively, I as the instructor have determined a particular skill set, for which I am developing these new (for me) methods.

    Comment by lisahistory — September 18, 2008 @ 8:49 am

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