Getting lost in the beauty of our discipline and sharing it with our students raises the challenge of what to cover within the limited time of our course or program. With all that is beautiful about our discipline, what do we focus on?
These building blocks can be identified and prioritized through several lenses:
Celebrating what’s Unique:
What makes your discipline unique? What are the key premises, approaches, conceptions, or methodologies not found in other disciplines? What is the unique contribution that individuals in your discipline can make to understanding human experience, and global and local challenges?
Defining Threshold Concepts:
One approach for defining these key ideas is by identifying the threshold concepts which are the transformative, troublesome, irreversible, integrative, and bounded concepts in a discipline that shape the language of the discipline (Meyer & Land). For example, Art as language in Art History (pages 7-9, http://www.usask.ca/gmcte/sites/default/files/Bridges_Aug_2012.pdf)
- Meyer J. & Land R. (eds.) 2006. Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. London: Routledge.
- Meyer J. & Land R. (2003). Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines. ETL project occasional report. Available at: http://www.etl.tla.ed.ac.uk//docs/ETLreport4.pdf
- Summaries such as: http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/thresholds.html
Distilling the Essential:
Another approach is to distill from our activities and assessments what is truly essential, such as knowing the systems in anatomy versus naming the location of placement flags. Resources related to universal instructional design and accommodation for accessibility provide a starting place with open-ended questions for identifying the essential requirements or components in your own course or program:
- Resources for Instructors, Student Disability Office, University of Windsor
- Determining Essential Requirements for Courses/Programs, Office of Accessible Education, Stanford University
Capturing in learning outcomes:
These big, bold, and beautiful pieces are the knowledge, skills and values at the foundation of each discipline and when articulated can form the program learning outcomes that define your curriculum vision.
The beauty that defines your discipline then becomes what that graduates of your program, those future builders of your discipline should know, do, value by the time they graduate. So that, by the end of this program/course, successful graduates are expected to…think in, act with and value with these big, bold and beautiful cornerstones of our discipline.