by Sandy Gambill, Reinert Center, Instructional Developer
Teaching Intensive and Accelerated Courses: Instruction That Motivates Learning
by Raymond J. Wlodkowski and Margery B. Ginsberg
July is traditionally a time for the beach and BBQs. It’s also traditionally the time both teachers and students question their decisions to be in the classroom instead of the swimming pool. Students are often overwhelmed with content in a typical 6 or 8 week summer course, and faculty often bemoan the lack of student motivation. In Teaching Intensive and Accelerated Courses: Instruction That Motivates Learning, Wlodkowski and Ginsberg offer some practical suggestions to deal with both issues.
The content issue, a.k.a. coverage, can be a challenge even in a traditional 15-week course, especially if your course is a prerequisite to other courses or a key part of a certification exam. How do you fit in everything you think a student needs to know? This coverage model can lead to a broad but shallow course design, touching briefly on several concepts, but leaving time for exploration of few.
Wlodkowski and Ginsberg advocate instead for a narrow and deep design. “For retention and transfer of knowledge, coverage is less important than focusing on the key concepts of a discipline that tie significant facts together and make them understandable and usable.” (Wlodkowski and Ginsberg, 2010) They also present other research that indicates “narrow and deep” is the desire of students: “…too often, students said, intensive course instructors try to cover too much material, which creates information overload. Students preferred to delve into fewer areas in more depth and concentrate on major concepts rather than learning large amounts of seemingly inconsequential material.” (Scott , 2003, as cited in Wlodkowski and Ginsberg, 2010)
What would this mean for your course planning? Would narrowing your content down to a few key concepts help you better meet goals and objectives? Is this really how you teach students to learn how to learn in your discipline? How would you decide what stays and what goes?
In the second part of the book, Wlodkowski and Ginsberg tackle the motivation issue, with a framework establishing four scaffolding conditions for motivation: establishing inclusion, developing attitude, enhancing meaning, and engendering competence. While important in all courses, in an alternative timeline, consciously working to help students feel part of the group can positively impact their attitude, which in turn increases motivation to delve into course work.
In addition to outlining questions surrounding each condition (for example, in establishing inclusion, the primary question is “how do we create a learning atmosphere in which we feel respected by and connected to one another?”), Wlodkowski and Ginsberg suggest pedagogical strategies for each. (To extend the example of establishing inclusion, an instructor might use collaborative learning as a strategy.) The book features curriculum mapping tools instructors can use to help them design learning activities for each condition and correlating strategy.
Teaching Intensive and Accelerated Courses: Instruction That Motivates Learning is available in the Reinert Center’s collection of books on teaching and learning. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to browse through the book or set up an appointment to discuss your accelerated course.