DEVELOPING A GRADUATE COURSE
If you are using the individualizing process and need to develop a new course, there are a few steps somewhat different from more traditional curricular development processes that we would like to describe. The reference base we are using in this description is an adult education graduate program.
One of the first things we do is develop the "course rationale" statement described in Chapter Six. In a rationale statement, we go further than simply developing a course description although some descriptive information will be included. We provide for learners a statement that describes our views of why they should be interested in the course, how it will help them as a professional, and how we will work with the individualizing process. In addition, we typically stress the potential that is possible for learners when they engage in self-directed learning. For example, if a graduate course in adult education is labeled "Program Planning and Evaluation in Adult Education," then competencies directly related to adult learning or adult psychology may not be appropriate.
When we are developing a new course, we also identify colleagues at other universities who may be instructing a similar course and request a copy of their syllabus for review. We read as much as possible relative to the subject to be taught, talk to fellow colleagues at our university about their ideas on the area, and do some personal brainstorming relative to the topic. As an example, a course was developed entitled, "Controversies in Adult Education." As initial preparation Examining Controversies in Adult Education (Kreitlow & Associates, 1981) was read, several years of four adult education journals were browsed looking for controversial topics, and several colleagues were contacted regarding their views on what should a learner obtain from such a course. We also use this searching process to identify one or more text books that we believe best fit the expected paths possible through the developing course content.
We also begin the search for some unusual types of materials that learners could not easily obtain on their own. For example, in the "Controversies" course described above audio tapes from many of the authors in the Kreitlow book are made available to learners. In the tapes each respective author describes a personal view of the book, what is wished was in the chapter that is not, and suggestions of how individual thinking on an issue already has changed. For a course on "Professional Writing and Publishing," examples of virtually every type of article that can be written, copies of stylistic guidelines from several journals, and various tips for writing and publishing in professional journals are made available to participants on a loan basis. For a research seminar, a large collection of research proposals are made available as are several sets of data from past studies. Our view is that even if only one person makes use of a resource during a course, it was worth the effort to make the material available.
The next step is the development of a workbook or study guide that contains basic course description and resource materials. The course rationale, text books, and supplemental resource materials thus serve as a foundation around which the workbook or study guide will be developed. We begin the process of drafting some preliminary goals, detailing various learning activity ideas, and including descriptions of the resource material we have located. We also include items like bibliographies, learning contract samples, and copies of papers or reports pertaining to the subject matter that have not been published in any other source. This has the advantage that much of the material pertaining to a course normally handed out in a piecemeal fashion can be distributed all at once. We typically make arrangements with a local copy center to duplicate and bind all materials within an attractive cover. The workbook is sold to learners as a normal text requirement for the course. They generally do not object to the arrangement because almost everything for a course is either bound together or available in whatever texts may be required.
For our university courses we accumulate special reading or mediated materials and place them on library and media reserve. An activity that is common to almost any type of instructional or training approach is the development of reading lists or bibliographies. This means that instructors must do considerable reading related to the subject matter. Our approach is to develop both an extensive bibliography that can be updated periodically and a list of selected materials for library reserve. Most university libraries or educational resource centers can place on reserve specific items related to a course. The idea is that selected reading materials will provide a basic understanding of the subject, while a larger bibliography facilitates additional study or specialized study for those with particular interests.
If a university course is held off-campus, especially at a location some considerable distance from the university library, it becomes even more crucial that some sort of extra reading capability be provided. In our off-campus courses, we usually make arrangements with our own library, a public library, or another university's library for materials that can be loaned to learners or placed on reserve. For the off-campus weekend scholar program in adult education at Syracuse University, a number of books have been purchased for each site that learners can borrow. We also bring along materials from our personal libraries that can be loaned to learners. When carrying out a training workshop we often bring along material for loan or ask the organization to provide access to various items for trainees.
Finally, we look for resource people in the community who
will be willing to make a presentation in a formal setting or work with learners outside such a setting. One of the most pleasing aspects of locating experts in the community is the very positive response that is usually found when people are asked to help. Most people appear to love instructing or sharing what they know about a subject and are eager to work with learners in some capacity. We also ask learners to evaluate all resource people at the end of a course so we can obtain a good sense how of each performed and who will be most beneficial for a course whenever particular needs surface again.
It may also be necessary to obtain other kinds of resources and make a variety of other arrangements. Films, panels of individuals on specific topics, internship assignments, conference attendance, and telephone interviews are some of these. Advance planning and communication often is required for many such resources.
Go to the bibliography.
Return to the book's table of contents.
Return to the book's index.
Return to the first page.