Assessment and integration….
In Creating Significant Learning Experiences (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), L. Dee Fink focuses on integration in course design and assessment. He’s on board with the triangles we see appearing in the work of our assigned authors linking (1) learning goals to (2) teaching/learning activities to (3) feedback and assessment, however he contributes a fundamental element in our educative assessment process: situational factors. He defines those as “all the major situational constraints and opportunities of the course.” (p. 140) One can imagine those might include the number of students who speak English as their second or third language, the students working part-time or full-time jobs who may not have the same time to invest in the class as others. It might be particular to one student who has a severe learning disability or PTSD after returning from a war zone. Situational factors also include the realities facing the teacher: the death of a parent, illness of a child, or pressure to publish or perish. It might include the wider context of the classroom: imagine teaching in New York City the day after 9/11. These realities play an important role for Fink in how he assesses an entire course, not simply the learning of the students and pedagogy of the instructor.
Fink also encourages teachers to organize their integrated courses into a thematic whole. It is conceivable that we could attend to each of the components we have studied (assessment, learning goals and outcomes, pedagogy and teaching activities, etc.), without attending to a greater coherency. Sequencing of course themes that build on one another and form a coherent whole as they organically integrate the other elements is a hard task for me, I am discovering.