Course Planning

CRLT is accepting applications through Friday, February 24, for the May 2017 Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Seminar. Interested graduate students can learn more about the program here. In this guest post, past participant Leigh Korey (Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature) shares her reflections about the program:

Past Preparing Future Faculty Seminar participant Leigh Korey (Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature) I realized in my second year of grad school that I wanted to pursue a career in teaching. It was in the middle of winter term, and I had solicited feedback from students in my first-year writing class. We had spent the first few weeks discussing in detail the idea of “context,” both in a literary sense and in terms of their own writing. In their feedback to me, they communicated that the pop quizzes I administered in class to hold students accountable for their reading assignments were not working. They didn’t object to the idea of pop quizzes as an assessment tool, rather, the problem was that the questions on the quizzes felt, in their words, “decontextualized.” I knew at that moment that they had finally understood the importance of context. Moreover, I learned that the feeling of working with a group of students until they truly comprehend something is one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable parts of teaching.
 
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Screen shot of UMS logoWith its world-class musical, theater, and dance performances, the University Musical Society (UMS) is often touted among faculty as a signal benefit of living in Ann Arbor. But did you know that UMS can also be a rich resource for your teaching? Now in its second cycle of three-year funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, UMS has been devoting significant resources toward the goal of infusing performing arts into the curriculum across campus. Their initiatives to support U-M teachers in connecting their courses to particular performances include:

  • The guide "Arts in Context: UMS in the Classroom" provides detailed guidance about each performance, including a list of disciplines with which it might intersect, some key topics or themes, resources for exploring and contextualizing the performance, and even reflection questions to guide student responses. The guide also highlights some themes that are shared across several performances, helping faculty think about clusters of events that might be incorporated into their syllabus.
  • Campus Engagement Specialist Shannon Fitzsimons is available to meet with faculty individually to design ways to incorporate one or more UMS performances into their courses. You can contact her at skfitz@umich.edu or 734-764-3903.
  • UMS has a Classroom Ticket policy: $15 tickets are available to students and faculty for performances that are a required experience for the course. 
  • The Arts at Michigan program provides $500 grants to support arts-related learning activities in courses across the curriculum. Funds can be used to buy student tickets to UMS performances integrated into a course. 
  • The new Course Development Grants provide an opportunity for faculty to incorporate UMS more deeply into a course, while sharing best practices with a group of like-minded faculty. The grants provide $1,000 in salary supplement and $500 in course development funds. The application deadline is November 15 for the Winter 2017 semester; for more information and to apply on line, visit http://ums.org/education/university-programs/.
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With its world-class musical, theater, and dance performances, the University Musical Society (UMS) is often touted among faculty as a signal benefit of living in Ann Arbor. But did you know that UMS can also be a rich resource for your teaching? Thanks in large part to a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, UMS has been devoting significant resources toward the goal of infusing performing arts into the curriculum across campus. Their initiatives to support U-M teachers in connecting their courses to particular performances include:

  • The guide "Arts in Context: UMS in the Classroom" (this season's is available here in pdf) provides detailed guidance about each performance, including a list of disciplines with which it might intersect, some key topics or themes, resources for exploring and contextualizing the performance, and even reflection questions to guide student responses. The guide also highlights some themes that are shared across several performances, helping faculty think about clusters of events that might be incorporated into their syllabus.
  • Campus Engagement Specialist Shannon Fitzsimons is available to meet with faculty individually to design ways to incorporate one or more UMS performances into their courses. You can contact her at skfitz@umich.edu or 734-764-3903.
  • UMS's student ticket programs reduce the cost to students to attend performances; group discounts are available as well. 
  • The Arts at Michigan program provides $500 grants to support arts-related learning activities in courses across the curriculum. Funds can be used to buy student tickets to UMS performances integrated into a course. 
  • The Faculty Institute on Arts Academic Integration provides more extensive training and resources for faculty fellows who seek to incorporate performance and arts-based learning into their teaching.
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Polishing up your winter term course plans over the break? Hoping your students' final papers and exams will be even better than the ones you just finished grading? Much research on learning and teaching suggests that you can get your students on the right track now by designing your course around specific learning goals--whether you're teaching something new or tweaking a course you've offered before. If you determine early in the planning process what you ultimately want students to take away from the course, you can choose readings, create exams and paper assignments, and structure in-class activities in ways that all align tightly with those central goals. 

Here are a couple of online resources about applying such principles of "Backward Design" to the planning of college courses:

  • Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching provides this overview of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe's influential book Understanding by Design and provides links to resources that assist instructors in applying the book's principles in their course planning.  (The full book is available electronically through the U-M library system to authenticated users.)
  • In this ProfHacker blog post from The Chronicle of Higher Education, literature professor Mark Sample offers a short, simple introduction to Backward Design, discussing his shift from asking the conventional question, "What should my students read this term?" to considering instead, "What do I want them to learn?"
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As winter term wraps up, many U-M teachers are thinking ahead to their spring and summer courses. When teaching in a short semester with a limited number of class sessions, it's especially important to make good use of the first day. How can you use an initial meeting to do more than review the syllabus and begin to learn students' names?

CRLT provides many resources to help you quickly establish a productive learning environment in your courses. This page provides an overview of resources related to goals you might have for the first day, from building rapport among students to getting them engaged with the course material. You can also click on the links below for great ideas about:

As always, CRLT staff are available to consult with individual instructors about effective teaching strategies before, during, or after your course. 

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