Part of my role as an academic is developing new courses, either with colleagues or on my own. Over the past two years, I worked with colleagues to develop two topics in the field of Language and Literacy. Each topic involved four graduate courses at the Masters’ level. Additionally, I was asked to develop a new course for our undergraduate program. There was considerable learning that resulted from doing this work.
In planning the graduate four course topics, we gathered as a team of four instructors to determine what we felt might be gaps in our program offerings. We reviewed existing courses to consider whether we were just reconfiguring existing courses or needing to envision all new courses. Although we could have settled for one four course topic, we decided that we wanted to use a combination of existing and new courses to design two separate topics – one that focused on Literacy in the Diverse Classroom and one that considered Multimodal Literacy Across Contexts. In choosing our titles, we deliberately chose titles that made the overall theme of the four courses explicit. Afterall, future students are reviewing a list of topics before clicking on the title to find out more, so we wanted the titles to steer potential students to this topic if literacy was of interest to them. Next, we consulted with stakeholders: teachers, colleagues, and our own graduate students. We asked them to consider if these topics represented topics they felt teachers should learn more about and whether the topic and course descriptions were clear. We then met to review the feedback and decide what edits were needed to our proposal. The proposal was accepted, and the first topic was offered the 2022-23 academic year. In the 2023-34 academic year, the second topic is now running. The healthy enrolment speaks to the attractiveness of the topic to our MEd Interdisciplinary students.
My more recent work is with the course development for Supporting English Language Learners. This online course was offered over five weeks starting in January 2023. Students were in their final semester of the BEd program and had chosen this course from among a selection of options. Potential students were ones who did not have a background in ELL or second languages, but who wished to improve their knowledge and skills in working with ELLs. Since the undergraduate students would be both elementary and secondary specialists from our on campus and community-based (rural and remote) programs, the course needed to be relevant for a range of teachers. My intention was to build the course around the Alberta ESL Benchmarks. Teachers often struggle with how to determine what level students are at. While the website that goes with the Benchmarks is a treasure trove of information, the course provided students with the opportunity to hone their knowledge and skills to be able to apply the Benchmarks to their teaching. I created six videos of ELLs that demonstrated their skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Thanks to a grant from our Office of Teaching and Learning, I was able to hire a former student to film the activities the children and I did together. In addition to creating the videos, I consulted with knowledgeable colleagues from the ELL field to ensure that I did not leave out any crucial information. This course will be used for years to come, so being thorough was important.
Through these opportunities for course development, I learned so much. In particular, the experience drove home the value of consulting with stakeholders and working through a cycle of design so that feedback can improve the course design. Moving forward, I will take the success of developing these courses into future projects.