In praise of…. Personalized Course Goals

The beginning of the course creation process involved the selection of goals and learning objectives for our students.  Sounds simple enough. But what do you when you’ve come up with 14 potential goals for a semester-length class.  How do you choose just 5 or so of them? 

There might be a temptation at this point to choose goals that allow you to simply keep your head down.  Vague sounding, academically respectable, and dull – the sort of goals neither your department chair nor your students will even notice.  While this may be the more vocationally safe route, there is a way to write course goals that are compelling and meaningful.

Here are four questions I use to determine course goals:

1. What are students expected to be able to know when they come out of this course? Here’s a conversation I never want to hear: “How on earth did you take Bob Wriedt’s course on _________ and not learn ________?”

2. What are the students expected to be able to do when they come out of this course? This is especially important if this course is a prerequisite for future courses.  I want to cultivate students who are well-prepared for their next step in the process.

3. How does this course fit in with the general curriculum of the school? Is this the students’ writing requirement course?  I better get ready to grade a lot of papers.  Is this their humanities elective?  Their only Bible course?  Knowing these things will help me design the course accordingly.

4. What do I love? – This may sound selfish, but the simple reality is that students will learn best the things I am most excited about.  While not every course is my dream to teach, there are always ways to accent the course in ways that reflect my passions.  When I do this, I enjoy lecture more, and the students feed on that.

Of course, this can be manipulated.  Some professors ignore questions 1-3, only lecturing on what they want to.  That is neither inspiring or helpful for the students.

Finally, it is worth asking whether we are passionate about the right things.  Don Carson recently was speaking about the importance of maintaining enthusiasm in the gospel.

“If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel….Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow.”  HT: CJ Mahaney

May our classes be enthusiastic about pointing students back to the cross.

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