Create powerful learning through integrated course design

It had to happen eventually.

Eventually, I had to start reflecting on what this blog is really supposed to be about: the research I’m doing for my Masters of Adult Education.

Until now, my blog has been a semi-weekly analysis of the remarkable lessons I’m learning as a teacher in the classroom and has not focused on my readings because I haven’t been doing my homework.

Bad Frank! Bad!

But the buck stops today because I’ve finally recommenced reading the books I borrowed from the StFX Coady Library in July (that’s a lot of renewals). Indeed, today I’m going to reflect on L. Dee Fink’s Creating Significant Learning Experiences.

I haven’t yet finished it. However, after reading only a few chapters, I’ve decided I’m going to change my research focus from mentorship to creating significant learning experiences as described through Fink’s notion of integrated course design.

I started this book at precisely the right time this semester. In my last blog entry, I wrote about how I had finally learned that great learning experiences happen by inspiring students to love learning through focusing on teaching a few things really well rather than many things poorly.

Amazingly, Fink hones in on this challenge in his book. Now is it providence or what that I’ve started his book the week after my last blog entry connected to this very subject?

It’s this focus on trying to cover a huge range of topics over the period of a course that Fink says prevents us from being effective educators. Put simply, students might learn lots of stuff, but they don’t learn it well and they forget it all too soon.

Fink suggests educators should still provide foundational knowledge (and still cover essential topics) but that absorption of this information should be only one kind of learning taking place. In order for students to truly learn and remember in the long-term what they learned, courses should support multiple types of significant learning.

The more types of significant learning, the better the lesson is learned and the longer it is remembered.

As well as obtaining foundational knowledge, Fink says students should learn how to apply their new knowledge, connect it to other things and ideas, use it to interact better with others and to develop new interests and values, and to build on their ability to learn. These are all different types of significant learning.

Fink provides some simple models and examples to help teachers integrate many of these types of significant learning into their lessons and I’m just getting into the part of the book where more detail is provided.

Blog author Frank Armstrong undergoes a "significant learning experience"

I’m so excited to spend time on this book that I ordered my own copy so I can make notes on its pages and keep it as a long-term reference.

I hope to use the idea of creating significant learning experiences through integrated course design to guide me in redeveloping the course outline for at least one of my courses next year.

I know that some of my students have learned far more than reading and writing skills in my classes and I’m excited about that, but I know I can do so much more.

Now it’s time to take my teaching to the next level by applying what I’m learning to developing my first course redesign. And I can hardly wait to begin.

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About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
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