What if we designed our courses like they design airports? Everyone gets where they need to go even if they don’t speak the language.
— Nathan Palmer (@sociologysource) April 11, 2013
I posed this question on Twitter last week and it’s been reverberating around my head ever since.
If you think about it, your class has a lot in common with an airport:
- Airports want to help travelers reach their goals (i.e. get to their final destination or to Cinnabon). Teachers want to help their students reach their educational goals (i.e. skill mastery, knowledge acquisition, etc.)
- Just like the airport we have no control over who comes through our classes. We are expected to serve all comers.
- Travelers and students both come to us with varying levels of skills, competencies, knowledge.
- Some travelers are thrilled to be in the airport (i.e. “I’ve made it!”) while others see the airport as nothing more than a means to an end. This also holds for our classes (Substitute travelers for students and class for airport).
My point here is simple: How we design our courses is where most of the biggest opportunities for improving student learning reside.
It’s easy to discount this as a quant idea, but a great deal of SoTL research is comprised of ways that teachers can change the design of their courses to achieve pedagogical aims. Furthermore, what other lever is there to pull here, other than course design?