UCAT’s Course Design Institute (CDI) is an intensive five-part workshop in which instructors, with hands-on guidance from UCAT staff, focus on designing or redesigning a specific course. The CDI provides participants with the tools, time, and support they need as they work to build or rebuild effective, student-centered courses.

By the end of each institute, participants will have created the basic structure of a course, including plans for a syllabus, assignments, assessment tools, and a course outline. Perhaps even more importantly, they will have had a chance to exchange feedback with a diverse group of colleagues from across our university, allowing them to share their ideas about teaching and gather new ideas from their peers.

The CDI introduces participants to a process called “Backwards Design,” a concept put forth by educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design. While it is tempting to begin designing a course by deciding what content to cover, “Backwards Design” suggests that instructors start by identifying specific, student-centered goals and objectives before they choose any other elements of the course.

In the CDI, one of the first things we ask instructors to do is to define their goals and objectives-what they want their students to know or care about and what they want their students to be able to do upon successful completion of their course. Then, instructors design specific assignments and assessment tools that “align” with their course goals and objectives. Finally, instructors identify teaching strategies and discipline-specific content such that all elements of their course are “aligned” with the foundational aims identified at the outset. By the end of the CDI, each of these components is arranged into an “Integrated Course Plan” that is designed to best enable student learning.