Classrooms without borders
Our classrooms exist within the walls of the college campus and extend to our online library system and Desire-to-Learn online learning platform as well as across many other technologies and websites. And, they flow out to the broader community through internship placements and other interactions with business leaders, alumni and residents of the surrounding area.
Increasingly, teaching is less about physical space and more about the ability of the professor to create the right environment to foster learning.
Learning principles for every classroom
Three influences on the learning environment discussed on this page are: Curriculum, Methodologies and Evaluation. Then we look at how we put them together in course outlines that meet Course Learning Outcomes and Program Learning Outcomes including those mandated by Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU). Finally, we reflect on feedback to tell us how we can continue to improve upon it.
As a professor co-appointed to both Durham College’s Journalism and Public Relations programs, I teach many communication courses related to writing and design fundamentals including:
- Interview and Research for Journalism
- Advanced Reporting
- Copywriting I and II for Public Relations
- Magazine Design
- Publication Management; and
- Professional Practice and Freelance
I have developed or redesigned most of these courses in the last two years based on the guidelines from the Curriculum Development course as part of the Durham College Teaching Certificate.
In keeping with the subject matter and goals of these courses, I focus on two premises to engage and hopefully, inspire my students to create their best work while meeting the objectives of the learning outcomes:
Learn by doing:
Using experiential learning activities to help students integrate and practise learnings from course content, and;
Creativity with purpose:
In the class, I work to create an opportunity for students to use what inspires them, their creativity and their individuality toward a business and/or professional purpose relevant in their chosen communications career. Here they learn to channel their talents into teamwork projects and to meet the goals of the project, the media outlet or an organization in a hands-on, real-world way. This speaks to the Apprenticeship model of teaching, which is discussed in the Philosophy section of this site.
Philosophically, I feel strongly connected to the concept of Invitational Practice as approach to teaching because it fits well with creation of a nurturing learning environment. Learn more about my use of this practice in the Philosophy section of this website.
In the classroom I strive to employ a number of the methods taught in the Durham College Teaching Certificate program to help students achieve their personal best in an invitational setting:
Universal Design for Learning (UDL):
In keeping with my teaching philosophy and with best practice, I have worked to integrate a number of UDL principles into my classroom in both content delivery as well as structure.
My goal is to address needs of diverse learners and people who may be challenged with identified, or even non-identified learning challenges. As well, I seek to create courses that address the needs of diverse individuals whose lives may have unseen complexities such as children to care for, ill parents or financial constraints requiring them to balance school and employment.
Click HERE for a lesson plan and analysis of how it addresses UDL principles.
One of the richest components of the college experience is the opportunity students have to straddle between the academic and professional worlds. In the Journalism program, second-year students run the Durham College-UOIT Chronicle newspaper and its associated social media platforms. In Public Relations, second-year students produce three issues of an alumni magazine for online and print distribution in the Publication Management course. Reflections is emailed to more than 27,000 alumni and is handed out at convocation ceremonies in the spring and fall.
REFLECTIONS MAGAZINE: A learning incubator
Reflections offers students an opportunity for hands-on content development of a professional standard. As well, they learn leadership, team work and time management as well as professional practice within the larger community.
Recently, we have introduced social media and video platforms to Reflections in keeping with industry evolution. The students researched and help develop the next steps in our progression just as they would as employees in a media or PR outlet.
Use of technology to aid learning:
In an environment where learning outcomes include students own ability to create strong, engaging and functional content, I believe it is important to engage and inspire them with learning tools that do the same.
Technologies I have used in the classroom include: PowToon, Educanon, Padlet, Socrative, Answer Garden as well as social and digital media platforms including YouTube, Twitter and WordPress.
Here is an example of a PowToon created to encourage students to use a self-directed Socrative for review before a test.
Feedback from students indicates they appreciate and are engaged by receiving content in diverse formats, especially using technology (providing it is simple and relevant to the task).
When content is provided in a way that is seen as helpful to their own goals (such as study assistance), they feel cared for and respected. In a recent informal classroom poll, when students were asked to name characteristics of a good teacher, the two most common words used were “caring” and “responsive.” It may be, as teachers, we need to be well educated to bring the tools to the classroom that help us do that, but for students it is what they see above the water not what goes on below it that matters. They seek calm, concerned, student-centred teaching. Methodologies, such as those discussed above, help us deliver that.
Curriculum begins with program standards set by MTCU. Durham College also has a centralized process for reviewing curriculum to ensure it meets quality standards of being: “performance-based, accessible, relevant, meaningful, engaging, and integrated.”
Program Learning Outcomes
Program learning outcomes (PLOs) start with those defined in the MTCU program standard. The institution and program level may add to and enrich these PLOs further to address identified industry needs, student interests or institution market position.
Course Learning Outcomes
Course learning outcomes (CLOs) articulate the desired competencies and knowledge students will take away from each individual course. When courses from each course within a program are mapped, the full slate of PLOs should be both taught and evaluated.
Click HERE to review a CLO development plan demonstrating how CLOs are created and map to PLOs.
Essential Employability Skills (EES)
While PLOs and CLOs ensure students have the technical knowledge and competencies in their area of specialty, essential employability skills (EES) provide the broad spectrum skills required for most workplaces and to allow students to someday move beyond an individual contributor role to expanded accountabilities.
Click HERE for identified EES outcomes within a lesson plan in the Magazine Design course.
JumpStart model of curriculum delivery:
The Jump Start model developed by Durham College is a combination of a curriculum-delivery framework and methodology. The format starts students a connection to the topic followed by content delivery and an opportunity to practice the skills taught prior to evaluation. It also provides teachers an opportunity to confirm student understanding of the material.
The sample lesson plans used throughout this website are based on the Jump Start model.
Evaluation is multi-purposed. In early stages of content delivery and practice, evaluation can serve to provide FORMATIVE feedback to the professor and the students on the students’ understanding, retention and ability to apply the information. Even before any content is taught, it can provide a starting point for learning.
The second form of evaluation is the one we most often connote with tests and exams. SUMMATIVE evaluation provides an assessment of student mastery after content and practice are completed. However, it can still serve some formative purposes when contemplating next steps in content and even course correction for future delivery of the modules completed.
The slide above and the full presentation attached HERE provide insight into the development and considerations for a formative evaluation.
Click HERE for a sample summative evaluation for the Public Relations Publication Management course. The evaluation includes instruction and marking rubric showing grading criteria (rubric also seen above).
Where it all comes together
After considering PLOs, CLOs, EES needs of the individual course as well as how they match up with other courses in the program to ensure all PLOs are being met, the final process step is writing of the course outline.
In writing the outline, considerations include:
- Curriculum needs (CLOs needed to meaningfully contribute to PLOs)
- Effective methodologies and content to deliver the curriculum
- Evaluations to be used to formatively identify student competency and knowledge level to ensure appropriate instruction, and
- Summative evaluations to grade student success in understanding and internalizing course curriculum to demonstrate CLOs prior to completion of the course.
Click HERE for a revamped course outline for the Durham College Journalism program’s Interviewing and Research course.
The final step
Well of course nothing is ever really final… more like a continuous loop of improvement. But the final step for this page at least is the feedback mechanism we will use to let us know how students are feeling about the process we have created for them. Click HERE to view a survey tool and rationale.