Teaching & Learning - Learning by Teaching

By Janet Rankin, Sr. Associate Director for Teaching Initiatives

I am teaching 5.95J (Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering ) this semester - and have recently been giving my students feedback on their "Planning a Lecture" assignment.

After reading several assignments wherein students had listed the topics that they were planning to address in a particular class or course - and telling each of them that they could better support student learning if they developed a structure or schematic that linked the concepts together - i realized that i should be examining my own course for ways to graphically depict the connections among the topics that we discuss. This was one of my "learning-by-teaching" moments of the semester.

Luckily for me and the students in 5.95J - a grand unifying structure was at my fingertips - in the Constructive Alignment work of John Biggs. We already discuss Biggs work in the course, and use it to motivate the classes on Learning Outcomes, Active Learning, and Grading - so it is a natural and logical extension to use it to organize the other classes as well.

The three components of constructive alignment are: Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs), (2) Teaching & Learning Activities (TLAs), and Assessment Tasks (ATs) - their relationship is shown graphically here:

The basic idea is that once the ILOs are established - they guide: (1) the way the course is taught and what students are asked to do in order to _learn_ the material (the TLAs) - and, (2) the assessments and assignments that are utilized to measure the extent to which students have achieved the ILOs. Based on this I have assigned each the topics of 5.95J (with the exception of Developing a Teaching Philosophy) to 1 of the 3 Biggsian circles, as shown to the left.




INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES (ILOs) - What students should learn and why they should learn it Class 1: Introduction to the class: What is the purpose of college - now, then, tomorrow? Class 2: What we know about student learning in higher education Class 3: Constructive Alignment, Content Priorities & Learning Outcomes

TEACHING AND LEARNING ACTIVITIES (TLAs) Class 4: Teaching Methodologies: Part I - Lecturing Class 5: Teaching Methodologies: Part II - Active Learning: Why and How Class 6: What Can Nerds Learn from Actors? Class 8: Teaching Problem Solving Class 10: Teaching in a Multicultural Classroom

ASSESSMENT TASKS (TAs) Class 7: Designing Homework and Exam Questions Class 9: Grading and Assessment

The last class - Developing Your Teaching Philosophy, sits outside of the any single circle - and provides an opportunity for students to synthesize the ideas and strategies discussed throughout the semester into a coherent and personal statement of how they teach, why they teach the way they do, and how they know they are being effective. It is a chance for each student to consider how the 3 circles will impact and influence teaching and learning in their courses.

By using the framework of Constructive Alignment to organize my course - I hope that students in future years will gain a deeper appreciation of the connectivity and relationships among the range of topics in the course, and will be better equipped to apply what they have learned to their own teaching and learning!