2:30-5:00 p.m., April 19, 2005
Mary Gates Commons
In Autumn 2002, I decided to completely redesign my Hollywood Cinema course (BIS 349) using outcomes alignment, learning theory, innovative assessment practices, and educational technology to create "holistic teaching and learning efficiencies." The course typically had 45-50 students, and its purpose was to introduce students to formalist film analysis as well as ideological interpretation, a combination which is fairly unusual. I had found in the past that many students were able to demonstrate a "solid" command of the methods, but that they often did not have a "deep" understanding, and had difficulty combining the two main methods. Further, I found that the course was particularly challenging to students not "naturally" gifted with the ability to do textual interpretation or visual analysisparticularly those students from our professional programs (Business, Computer Systems, Nursing, etc.) My aim was to create an educational experience requiring roughly the same amount of time as the previous version, but which was much more effective for a range of learners. By "holistic efficiencies," I considered not simply learning outcomes, but student engagement and satisfaction, faculty morale, resource use, etc. I began by using the principles of outcomes alignment to rethink both content and learning processes. I integrated scaffolding, social learning, formative assessment, student self-assessment, learning styles, clear rubrics and metrics, and sample writing, aided by a web site, custom DVD tutorials, and an asynchronous web posting board.
From a holistic efficiency perspective, the results have been mixed. On one hand, the improvement in learning has been dramatic, measured by grades (which have added credence as a measure of learning because of the outcomes-specific methods for assessment) and comparative assessment of assignments by outside evaluators. (Grades have been compared using multiple regression analysis to discover a number of results.) Two key changes included the improvement of professional students and the improved depth of understanding of the "excellent" students. At the same time, student satisfaction appeared to drop, both generally in the quantitative course evaluations and specifically in the qualitative evaluations referring to the learning process of posting assignments publicly, which I considered to be the most important feature for achieving learning efficiencies. (Otherwise, the qualitative evaluations were generally very favorable.) The contradictions found in the qualitative evaluations were taken as a point of departure in a follow-up course, in which I engaged the help of a colleague in psychology, where we used student engagement strategies and added focus groups as a means of evaluating the course. We are currently processing this data, but I can report on initial findings.