Beginner’s (Bad)Luck

Secant MethodWhen it comes to simulations, we here at ALPS consistently emphasize the importance of identifying desired learning outcomes first and only then selecting a simulation that might enable students to achieve those outcomes. If one does the reverse, it’s likely that both the students’ and the instructor’s time will be wasted.

I recently realized that I made something of a beginner’s mistake in this regard, but with writing assignments rather than a simulation. It’s somewhat embarrassing because I’m the person charged with overseeing the assessment process for the course in question.

My basic mistake was not paying enough attention to the learning outcomes specified for the course when writing the directions for the course assignments. My assignments kind of related to the learning outcomes, but only by doing some mental interpolation. It would have been much more efficient to simply paste language from the learning outcomes into the assignment directions, so that’s what I’m doing from this point forward. I’ve included an example below. Abu-Lughod refers to Janet Abu-Lughod’s book Before European Hegemony.

Learning outcome:

  • Apply an interdisciplinary research methodology to understanding and addressing contemporary global issues.

Original assignment instructions:

  • How does the other author’s work fit with Abu-Lughod’s discussion of the eight regional subsystems (pages 33-38)?
  • Does the other author exhibit what Abu-Lughod refers to as “backward reasoning” (page 12)? Why?
  • Does the other author’s work reflect the problems of data or testimony discussed by Abu-Lughod? Why?

New assignment instructions:

  • How does the other author’s argument and methods fit with Abu-Lughod’s discussion of the eight regional subsystems (pages 33-38)?
  • Do the other author’s methods exhibit what Abu-Lughod refers to as “backward reasoning” (page 12)? Why?
  • Do the other author’s methods or conclusions reflect the problems of data or testimony discussed by Abu-Lughod? Why?

Simple, yes? Yet I missed it.

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