More Content Doesn’t Equal More Learning

New material continues to emerge in every academic discipline

Adding content to an already jam-packed syllabus puts us in a race to the course finish line—talking a mile a minute and leaving exhausted students in the dust.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink the role of content in teaching and learning. A fresh perspective on this problem includes thinking about our role as faculty and that of our students, as well as reconsidering the nature of curriculum design.

The role of “content expert” is a familiar and comfortable one for most of us

Yet a narrowly defined role as content expert invariably leads to a “content coverage” model of teaching that puts information transmission at the heart of what we do.

What our students need from us is assistance in navigating the waters in an ocean of information. We can become “content curators” who judiciously select the best “artifacts” for learning,

KRM: Expert consultant and troubleshooter is another role, perhaps more suited to a skills course like programming.

Rather than “covering” content, we use carefully selected content to help students develop the skills of their discipline or their profession.

With a shift in focus from covering content to using content, curriculum design also becomes less a matter of determining “what” to teach and more a matter of “how” to facilitate learning.

Imagine that you meet a student five years after he or she took your course. What would you like to have that student remember from the course?

I think we’d all much rather prefer that our former students remember key concepts, ones that transformed their thinking.

students might also look back and recognize that it was not knowledge itself that had the greatest impact, but the ability to apply that knowledge.


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