Creating Significant Learning ENVIRONMENTS
As part of my coursework in Creating Significant Learning Environments at Lamar University, I explored the application of constructivist techniques, to create active and engaging learning environments that utilize technology, increase motivation for learning, and engage the learner.
I then created a Learning Outcomes 3 Column Table that aligned outcomes, assessment and activities for an instructional component of my Innovation Plan, a unit in a high school Physics class that covers circuits. I started by considering the learning environment, followed by the development of effective learning goals and the alignment of those goals to the activities and assessment, and then building the 3 Column Table. Thinking in terms of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, the course outcomes planning process and the 3 Column table influenced my innovation plan by giving the educators involved a framework for determining an innovative approach to the content area. From this framework we can accomplish the goal of the innovation plan, namely creating content specific learning activities that improve teaching and learning outcomes in my content area by integrating technology into my organization's instructional practice.
For the same instructional component, the Circuits unit, I then designed a one page overview for the unit based on the "1-Page Template with Design Questions for Teachers" from Understanding by Design (2005) by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. This one-page planning documents provides a gestalt of my learning environment. The 1-page version of the UbD Template does not go into great detail in terms of activities : it is not intended to be used as a lesson plan. Its purpose is to provide a design frame that can be used to check the alignment of the outcomes/ goals, assessments and activities of an entire unit within a the "big picture" or the greater context of the learning goals of the entire course. This is done using the principle of backwards design, an approach to a curriculum design that begins with the end in mind and designs toward that end. This allows the unit planning to be more learning and results-focused as opposed to teaching and content-focused. With the desired results, the larger curricular, learning and intellectual goals in mind, I, as the teacher, could then identify the assessment evidence necessary to determine that the results have been achieved. Only then did I consider the actual learning activities, now knowing the teaching necessary to accomplish the desired results.
This process was not dissimilar to the Learning Outcomes 3 Column Table that I did previously for this unit on circuits, which also takes into account learning goals, assessment and learning activities. I do feel that the UbD template is a more streamlined process than the three column table, because the whole process can be completed within the template itself. I had to complete a Formulating Significant Learning Goals activity before attempting the 3 Column Table itself, and had to modify it with the addition of a BHAG. A benefit of doing these additional steps in the 3 Column table is that there is a greater focus on the types and classification of goals, taking into account not only knowledge and skills, but the aspects of application, integration, human dimensions/ caring and learning-how-to- learn. The BHAG also allows for a connection to college, careers and society by widening the scope of our outcomes beyond just the curriculum of the course.
I recognize the benefits of these two different design processes to my ability to design learning environments and my Innovation Plan. The backwards design process and the formulation of significant learning goals will be invaluable tools to my innovation planning, because its focus is unit planning in a content area, with the goal of improving teaching and learning outcomes by integrating technology into my organization's instructional practice. I will certainly now think of my innovation plan with the additional aspects of adding a BHAG, looking at our goals from additional perspectives, practicing stronger alignment between goals, assessment and activities and starting the process with the UbD template.
Our last activity in CSLE was to revisit the idea of mindset, by creating a plan for developing, promoting, and supporting a growth mindset in our learners. Discussing the power of the growth mindset was the first topic covered in the coursework of the DLL program; now that I am a third of the way into the program, it is helpful to be able to revisit these ideas with the added perspectives of COVA and CSLE and apply them to my innovation plan; I originally developed a Growth Mindset Plan in Concepts of Educational Technology.
In the original plan, I addressed the problems of the fixed mindset in my own practice as an educator and in my institution. Taking into account the what I have learned since then, I reviewed and updated the plan to address how to cultivate the growth mindset in learners, how it can aid in creating significant learning environments, and how it applies to my Innovation Plan.