Journal Number Nine

I was using Design Thinking/Iterative Design as I was planning my Early Literacy Workshop/Intervention.  This design model heavily emphasizes prototyping, feedback and iteration as a continuous cycle that may never end. This has certainly been my practical experience.  Although I rarely have time to iterate a new course design before teaching it the first time, I always change things up before I teach a course again. As many of my courses are taught online this might include minor adjustments to the calendar, updating content, and tweaks to assignments, but it might also include complete restructuring units depending on the feedback I have received. In my face-to-face course I am always looking for inspiration for new activities and adding updated content. I publish my calendars as “tentative” and I leave room later in the course to be responsive to student needs or topical items that come up as the semester progresses. 

I am fortunate in many of my courses that I am largely only accountable to myself and my learners, so long as I adhere to the general outline of the syllabus and course description on record. I am the only instructor who teaches the courses I am assigned and I am left largely to my own devices to find content and develop course activities, which gives me quite a bit of freedom. In my personal design, therefore, I believe I will continue to iterate and refine my courses in line with a Design Thinking Model and take opportunities to iterate and refine informally as I go and formally before the beginning of each semester.   I like the image below, because it illustrates that this process can go on indefinitely. 

Where things might be more convoluted is in my work with my larger department. We structure certain courses for the purpose of college-wide and university-wide assessment for the purposes of meeting the requirements imposed by outside accreditation organizations. As I noted in one of my previous reflections, this work often takes a more Backwards Design approach, as we are obligated to decide which student artifacts we will preserve to show our accrediting bodies that we are aligning our curriculum to standards, and to demonstrate that our students have learned what we set out to teach them. Once these assessments are in place I have less flexibility during the assessment cycle to change them (or the individual course content that prepares students to complete them).

Iteration feels much more artificial in this model, as I have certain windows when I can change or update materials and assessments.  I also cannot work fully independent of my colleagues as any change in my assessments or the standards I am responsible for addressing may impact their courses or the program as a whole.  I would personally advocate for a more systematic approach to iteration given these parameters. Unfortunately I am not in a position to direct the work of the other faculty within the department; the reality ends up being that we rush to make changes right before the deadlines mandated by our accrediting bodies (Middle States and CAEP) and changes are often made for the sake of expediency rather than a cohesive vision or response to learner needs. Unfortunately, this leads sometimes leads to a rather uneven product that reminds me of this popular meme which beautifully illustrates what happens when we focus all of our effort on the START of a project, rather than having a strategy to keep us motivated throughout:

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