3 Frameworks for Course Design: Life Lessons, Meaning Maps, and Textbook Tales

When designing a course based on prescribed standards or expectations, our teachers utilize Wiggins and McTighe’s “Backward Design”.  They group expectations, develop “Big Ideas”, “Enduring Understandings”, and “Essential Questions”, and then design assessment tasks that will allow their students to demonstrate achievement of these.  Their lessons scaffold and support learning, to ensure that their students are able to achieve success.

Our teachers develop a strong sense of why and what they are doing, but do their students?

When teachers are able to make connections, and put the learning in context, students are able to do so as well.  My grade 11 English teacher, Mrs. Miller, focussed all of our learning on the theme of LOVE, perfect for hormone-crazy 16-year-olds.  In the same year, our World Religions teacher, Mr. Peter Carver, connected all our learning to answering Eternal Questions.  And so when I had to connect all the skills and content of our grade 9 business course “Introduction to Information Technology”, I had the students explore their inner entrepreneur, and design and plan for a fantasy business.

My question is, can we do this for courses like Math?  Like Science?  Like Computer Science?

In my next three blog posts, I am going to try it out.  I’ll take a subject area that I know little about, look at the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum documents, explore the textbooks and resources, and create either a Textbook Tale, a Meaning Map, or a series of Life Lessons that might create coherence for our 21st century teens.