Chapter One: Course Plans


A class starts with a plan. It’s a framework for the experiences students will have: it describes what sort of learning will take place, how it will take place, when it will take place, and why it will be valuable. Before I start teaching—well before, often even months in advance—I start putting together that plan. The plan itself includes the strategy of the class and also the tactical methods, assignments, and student interventions that occur through the educational experience. The act of putting together the plan serves as a way for me to role-play that educational experience to see what it “feels” like.

Building your first class can be daunting. Curriculum design is an entire profession. People go to school just to learn how to build effective and strong courses. But most of us don’t have the luxury of working with an instructional designer, and instead, we’re left on our own to shape the classes we teach. As I described in the introduction, building a new course is like working through a design problem. If we treat it as less precious and less finite, it becomes more tractable.

So, just like in a design project, let’s think about how we can frame the problem of curriculum design and break it down into pieces and parts. The plan is made up of a few sections: course outcomes, a schedule of classes, a series of grading opportunities, and a course description. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

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