Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Design Practices to Maximize Students Learning

By Karen Keene, North Carolina State University, Beth Burroughs, Montana State University, and Hortensia Soto, University of Northern Colorado
This semester Teaching Tidbits continues its posts highlighting the new Instructional Practices Guide (IP Guide) from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). This evidence-based guide is a complement to the Curriculum Guide published in 2015. The guide provides significant resources for faculty focused on teaching mathematics in evidence-based ways. There are three focus chapters in the guide, Assessment Practices, Design Practices and, Classroom Practices, along with some additional sections that explain the importance of evidence-based instructional practices. Karen Keene and Beth Burroughs served as lead writers for the Design Practices and Hortensia Soto was a project team member and co-editor of the MAA IP Guide.

College professors have been planning for their classroom instruction for as long as universities have existed.  Planning for instruction is one facet of the practice of design. The MAA IP Guide addresses design practices as

“the plans and choices instructors make before they teach and what they do after they teach to modify and revise for the future. Design practices inform the construction of the learning environment and curriculum and support instructors in implementing pedagogies that maximize student learning.”

Design practices include planning for the content, but much more as well.  Designing to maximize student learning requires professors to consider many things as they plan, but also to use the results of teaching to continue to revise and modify teaching in the future. Consideration of what is known about teaching practices and how students learn is necessary for all parts of the design. The design practices chapter of the IP Guide includes questions that instructors could ask themselves while designing instruction (i.e., how can I be sure to be inclusive in my instruction?), as well as many suggestions that focus on designing cognitive and affective learning goals, developing tasks and other ideas for instruction, and creating learning environments. To focus on student learning, instructors need to design the learning environments, the tasks and the homework based on the student learning objectives.

In the design practices chapter, the authors offer design principles and considerations, educational research, and real examples provided by faculty in the field.  Readers can access the chapter for a quick planning idea, or to consider making bigger instructional changes that focus on student learning; both are exciting and possible.

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