This week I have been participating in course redesign discussions.. It was extremely interesting because of the nature of the content: it is all in Arabic. It is an Islamic Studies course and when talking with the instructor, we have to talk using the meta-language of education and instructional design.
When I approach English course resources like the syllabus, curriculum, materials, I bring my assumptions about them. For instance, if I know anything about a subject that is based around concepts or themes, I might assume that x, y and z should be the order of content and big ideas, those core concepts of which all else are tied to. But on occasions, my assumption has been wrong. I ask the course instructor and in fact the order and the big ideas might be different. Talking with the Arabic instructor, I had to ask him explicitly and he had to direct his attention to these. I need to ask the right question and make sure of the details to ensure of my recommendations.
Direct and Focused Thinking
To follow on from this, not understanding the language of the content forces me to ask direct questions. If I want to know what the curriculum objectives, I need to ask. If I then want to know in what ways these are met in lessons or which materials support the teaching and learning of these, I’ll need to ask directly. This certainly helps focus the instructor and my thinking on the objectives and how they’re met.
When I read certain ideas of how the teaching and learning might be designed. I of course outline these but at times these need clarification by the instructor as I leave out certain details that I assume are given. When speaking with the Arabic instructor, I was able to approach the course resources with a very clear and open mind. I had to rely on the instructor’s commentary of resources before I could get any impression of them and how the curriculum and learning objectives can be met through them. We were certainly able to focus conversation on the resources and the best teaching and learning to met the objectives.
This was a crucial area of discussion as currently the course has students with laptops but in six months, they’ll have students with iPads coming through. The assessments would work quite well and it was only after talking about instructional design specifics, like the above, that I was able to understand more about the assessments and how the iPad would affect this. We focused on the reports assessment that was used to assess students’ research. Already they had reflection as a component to it but with certain apps, I suggested that the assessment could be formative throughout the term and not just summative at the end. Apps like Evernote tie in with this idea well as students document the learning experience throughout the research process. Not understanding the content because of a language barrier helped me focus my questions and created a meta-awareness of the educational and instructional design features that I needed to talk about.