Taking an existing course and transforming it into a new format–for example, converting an in-person course to hybrid or online, or adapting an online course to in-person delivery–is challenging. Most of us experienced this with the conversion to flex-hybrid during the 2020-2021 academic year, and you may now have a hybrid or online course prepared that you need to shift to in-person with the return to the classroom

This can be a great opportunity to think about how your existing course has gone in the past and assess whether it really fits your desired outcomes and teaching philosophy. This article guides you through a reflective process for adapting your course. We recommend pairing it with the Backwards Design Form to help you turn your reflections in to a practical outline of the adapted course.

Identify the Core of Your Teaching Philosophy

Your teaching philosophy is the combination of your beliefs about your role as the professor, the role of the students, materials, space, processing activities and the assessments. At its core, your educational philosophy tries to answer the question:

How do I bridge the gap between the ideal teaching and learning experience and the current learning context?

By exploring the ideal and reality, and by finding ways to get as close to the ideal as possible, you discover your deepest values as educators.

How would you describe the ideal learning experience?

Think outside the box, this is about the ideal, the too good to be true. You might be tempted to limit yourself by defaulting to “Well, this is what I do…” Resist the temptation and dream:

  • Maybe you dream about learning a culture by living in a new place with a guide who invites you to explore and discover, at your own pace
  • Maybe your guide gives you just enough freedom to induce high curiosity and anticipation. Still, they are there just in time to make you think twice before making a serious mistake. They know all the best places and people. And they have access to unlimited resources.

Understand Your Context – Ideals and Reality

How would you describe the reality of your planned teaching and learning context?

Think about the environment and format in which you will teach this course: classroom, travel, fully online, hybrid, or something else. What are the beneficial aspects of this situation and what are the challenges compared to other contexts in which you have taught? Consider:

  • Your strengths
  • The strengths of the learners
  • Available tools and materials
  • Potential course structures and teaching methods 

What are the roles of people and tools in this context?

Based on your desire to create the most ideal learning experience for your students, identify what you believe about the following:

  • Role of the professor
  • Role of the student
  • Role of the materials
  • Role of the space/place
  • Role of the learning activities
  • Role of assessment

Design Transformational Courses Based on Outcomes

How would you describe the ideal student outcomes?

Imagine it is the end of a semester or imagine seeing a former student on the job. You look at that student with such pride and admiration because they “turned out” exactly as you hoped. You see your influence and the influence of your course in their maturity:

  • What knowledge do they possess and apply?
  • What skills do they have?
  • What attitudes and ways of being guide their decisions and interactions with themselves, others and the world?
  • How do you know that they possess and apply their knowledge and skills and how are their attitudes expressed?

Key Question: How will you design your course to develop students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes? And how will your students demonstrate their development?

Don’t forget: your course needs to meet the required outcomes!

How do you design for your ideals?

Backwards Design is an approach to course design that encourages you to set learning goals for your students and then consider how your students might achieve those goals.

  • What do you want your students to know, process, and do?
  • What kind of evidence would prove your students’ knowledge or competency?
  • What lessons and learning activities scaffold and support your students’ development?

The Backward Design Form guides you through applying your reflections on ideals to practical course design. You can also consider other strategies to maximize interaction and community growth:

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