Moving forward on educational goals
After “pestering” his colleagues in the Department of Earth Sciences for course educational goals in advance of external review time, associate professor Glyn Williams-Jones says he was pleasantly surprised.
“While a little challenging time-wise because this is on top of our regular workloads, the process has gone very smoothly,” says the department undergraduate curriculum chair. “That’s because we’re continually coming up with learning goals anyway. We just hadn’t written anything down formally.”
The exercise has already proven incredibly valuable, says Williams-Jones. “It forced us to look at our curriculum in a new way, to examine our assumptions about knowledge gained from each other’s courses and perhaps rejig our courses as prerequisites to others. As instructors, we started to feel more enthused about teaching, which of course benefits students too.”
At the end of September, the department was preparing to vote on tentative goals at both the departmental and course level. “Once approved,” says Williams-Jones, “these will be bumped up the line to the Faculty of Science for broader approval.”
He says he’s looking forward to having a formal set of educational goals. “Then we’ll be able to communicate to prospective students why they should get excited about earth sciences. With clearly defined educational goals we can do a better job of recruiting.”
Earth sciences isn’t the only department to initiate the educational goals process ahead of time. The Faculty of Environment is currently developing new programs and a new degree proposal, and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology recently undertook a complete curriculum overhaul that incorporated course- and program-level educational goals.
“This is part of an institution-wide process tied to external reviews, in which departments define their own educational goals and the methods for assessing them,” says Susan Rhodes, acting director of university curriculum and institutional liaison.
“We’re proceeding systematically, with 14 departments set to participate over the next two years. And we’re making sure there are resources available to support the process.”
The TLC can help
Educational consultants at the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC) are available to assist with educational goals development year round.
The TLC has also launched a new website to support academic units by providing informational resources, examples and templates that can be adapted and customized to their unique needs.
In August 2013, the TLC held a three-day intensive workshop on educational goals development, targeting senior academic administrators, faculty members and staff members involved in goals implementation. Originally geared to 30 seats, response to the workshop was so strong, organizers had to cut off participation at 60.
As departments come up for review, VP Academic funding is available through the University Curriculum & Institutional Liaison office.
The money can be used to fund course releases for faculty who take on a coordinating role, to hire research assistants to help with assessment development, and to bring in guest speakers or attend relevant conferences or workshops.