Program Design Guided by Values and Cluster Learning

As part of our CPLC work, we were charged with sharing an artifact from last school year that demonstrates an intersection of expressed values and one or more aspects of Cluster Learning. Ever the rulebreaker, I want to share some draft thinking that’s influencing current program revision. 

All of my work on this program revision has been deeply influenced by my values and aligns, I believe, with various tenets of Cluster Learning. I’ve been using CPLC to write about the values that I think are most closely reflected in my work on the program revision. I wrote here about the importance of authentic and situated learning experiences. Here I challenged the primacy of using content to drive learning objectives. And here I discussed the role of meaningful problems driving learning experiences. 

Program Revision

I’ve been meeting with my colleagues nearly every week this summer in order to move our program revision forward. We spent years trying to articulate a common vision and develop program outcomes. Though that work was rewarding, we kept getting stuck while trying to transition from the big picture stuff to the specific course development. We finally found some traction as we mapped out how many courses we could realistically offer and when during the program we should offer them. We ended up with a series of blocks, representing 4-credit courses, that needed to be developed into actual courses. After reviewing professional standards, existing courses, and other programs, I made a draft of what I thought I our first 2 years of coursework could include. 

In drafting these courses, I used the following template. I’ve included language that highlights what my goal was in each cell. In general, I felt the courses could develop into something special only if we made them field-centric and interdisciplinary. Only then could we engage in authentic experiences that supported meaningful projects.

CoursePlaceholder title that could give some general focus.
FieldworkI wanted every course to have off-campus field component. I placed it first because I thought it was important to center the most authentic experiences rather than the content to be covered. I was interested to see how a course might develop when the content and learning experiences were meant to be in service of the fieldwork, rather than having the fieldwork feel like some sort of bonus experience.
Big TopicsIf students were to be successful in their field experiences, what sorts of topics should be addressed? I tried to think a lot about the situated nature of learning and never address a topic in isolation. For example, while it’s critical for preservice teachers to learn how to support students with diverse needs, I was purposeful in not having a “Special Education” course. Rather, I wanted those ideas carefully integrated with other topics, just as they are when put in practice. This means that every course would need to be co-created by various individuals with specific expertise. It would mean co-teaching or creating modules for each other’s courses. This was terrifying, but aligned with how I’ve been thinking about authenticity and the participation metaphor for learning.
ProjectI wanted PBL and Design Thinking to feature heavily in course design. My preference is that individual courses have projects designed by students and informed by fieldwork. I wanted them to be open enough that they could span courses. I recognized, however, that we might not be ready for that right off the bat.
RationaleI put this in there mostly because I do a poor job of relating my thinking and felt I needed a space to justify my thinking.

Here’s an example of a course. Again, this is very drafty and meant to support program conversation. I anticipate that the final course will be very different. This course would be offered 2nd semester of their 1styear.

CourseUnderstanding the Child in Context (this is a terrible name for a course)
FieldWeekly experience, mostly observation of school age children- preferably in afterschool programs
Big TopicsLater child development, special needs, CLD students, whole child- who they are in various contexts (family, community, school, cultural/religious contexts, etc.)
ProjectIn general, I’d prefer if we had projects that were either done in service of a community partner or as part of student chosen goals. Otherwise, child/group profile. Start with demographic information and then work deeper into a more thorough profile and discuss how that knowledge could influence learning experiences.
RationaleSo after a course that focuses on things educators do (curriculum, instruction, and assessment), this course serves as a clear follow-up that the focus has to remain on the child and all that surrounds the child. The more we understand about children, the more capable we are of supporting them in our varied capacities.

At this point we have a lot more work to do, but it’s been exciting for me to have a series of proposed courses that have been built by centering specific values and including Cluster Learning. I will update as the program continues to take shape.

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