What We’re Consulting: What Are Your Teaching Goals NOW?

At CNDLS, we’ve been advocating for Teaching Goals for years; it’s much, much easier to teach effectively if you have a sense of where you want students to get by the end of the semester, and if you design backward from those goals. These days, most faculty consider this as they choose their readings and design their assignments, thinking, for example, about what knowledge or skills they want their students to develop in the course. But there are other possible goals to pursue, and the era of the pandemic makes some of them fairly urgent.

So: as you think about your upcoming courses, what goals might you adopt for your students that don’t fall within traditional academic categories but which might be sorely needed under the pressure of the pandemic and other national and world events, along with the challenges of online/hybrid learning? And which might support their personal and academic growth?

Identifying Teaching Goals

For ideas, check out the Teaching Goals Inventory, created by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross and turned into an online tool by the University of Iowa’s Office of Teaching, Learning, & Technology. Taking the inventory yourself will help you to see what really matters to you—or, given the circumstances, what maybe ought to matter to you. Angelo and Cross’ questions are rooted in six potentially distinct goals:

  • Teaching students facts and principles of the subject matter
  • Providing a role model for students
  • Helping students develop higher-order thinking skills
  • Preparing students for jobs/careers
  • Fostering student development and personal growth 
  • Helping students develop basic learning skills

As I noted above, some of these are longstanding staples of the academic world: the accumulation of facts, principles, and thinking and learning skills. And the role of education in fostering job/career readiness is a perennial conversation. We’re used to all of those ideas. But—particularly at this historical moment—it could be helpful to think about two other potential purposes for your course:

Providing a role model: To a certain extent, you are a role model for your students whether you want to be or not. They encounter you as an exemplar of a person in your academic field, as an academic and/or teacher more generally, and also as a human being. So what do you want them to learn from encountering you in these ways?

  • What modes of thinking and approaches to scholarship do you want to model?
  • What do you want to model in the way you manage conversation, disagreement, and complication?
  • What do you want to model in terms of your humanity? What self-care, boundaries, and frankness about Zoom fatigue and other strains are you demonstrating?

Student development and personal growth: One way or another, this is going to be a significant period in the lives of your students. The question is whether your class can respond to the situation by helping to make it a period of growth. 

  • Can your class be a place where physical and mental well-being are emphasized, and where students have the opportunity to experiment and grow in those areas?
  • Could you build a sense of community in your course that would encourage students to feel responsibility toward one another?
  • Are there ways to connect the course material to students’ lives so that their increasing understanding of the material could also lead to increased self-understanding?

For many faculty, these goals will be new ones. With that in mind, here are a few resources that you might find helpful:

We’re in a long period of upheaval, to be sure. But, along with the challenges we’re experiencing, we also have an opportunity to broaden our goals for our courses—an opportunity, and probably even a need.