Understanding TEL’s Curriculum Design: Defining Learning Effectiveness, Student Engagement, and Demonstrable Learning

by | Dec 8, 2020 | Learning Design

Think back to your high school and college years. What were your favorite classes? Probably not the ones where the instructor lectured the entire class period, you took three massive tests, and added a few posts to the course board that might have been read, but probably not. The only thing you learned from that class was not to cram for the test the night before.

The courses that truly provide lasting value for students are ones that engage them with high-quality learning experiences and facilitate inquiry and reflection. Students finish these courses knowing not only what they learned, but also how it’s applicable to their future goals.

Building Highly Engineered Courses

At TEL Education, we are dedicated to building courses that allow students to “see” their learning and to “show” it to others. We design courses that feature content and instruction aligned to granular learning outcomes and 21st-century skills and competencies. Our assessments and rubric-based assignments allow students to demonstrate what they learned and share that demonstrable evidence in meaningful ways.

With each completed course, we learn more about what is working and what can be made better. We collect data to iterate improvements. This research specifically focuses on three aspects: Learning Effectiveness, Student Engagement, and Demonstrable Learning.

Learning Effectiveness

It starts with a high-quality learning experience that includes measurable outcomes and supported student development. Individual students bring different preferences, backgrounds, and prior knowledge to each course, so learning effectiveness can vary depending on each student. But at the end of the class, the student should be able to affirmatively answer, “Do I know more now than I did before?” They should also know how this new knowledge will help them reach their future goals, academically, professionally, or personally.

Demonstrable Learning

If you want to know if you understand something completely, try to explain it to a 5-year-old. When a student finishes a TEL course, we want them to be able to explain the concepts to anyone, regardless of that person’s background knowledge. Demonstrable knowledge, or the ability of a student to explicitly show what they have learned, starts with creating specific learning outcomes that fit into the overall goals of the course and strongly align to assessments. By creating measurable outcomes, educators and students can monitor their progress through the course and make adjustments to the student experience so the student can best demonstrate their learning.

Student Engagement

It’s hard to have an effective learning experience or demonstrable learning outcomes if the student is not engaged in the course. Students need to understand why this course is valuable and see it as a meaningful investment of their time. As curriculum designers, we know that it’s not just the course material that needs to be interesting, but we also need to address emotional engagement with the course environment (the instructor, classmates, academics in general) and behavioral engagement through student participation.

Creating Effective Learning Experiences

Creating a high-quality, college-level course requires more than just a good subject matter expert. It takes a fine-tuned process focused on student success. To learn more about our course design process, visit the TEL Difference page on our website or download our research definition infographics that go deeper into these three concepts.

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