January 2, 2014

Day 2 - Countdown to School Beginning

I am in the thick of my lesson planning for next week. I had hope to have all my lessons planned out by now. While I had the syllabus back in early December, I didn't have the lecture notes or the actual schedule until this past week. GCU uses a hybrid solution for their traditional campus courses. We use the Loud Cloud course management system for assignments and e-resources, even though we physically meet on campus each week. Since the courses are integrated into the Loud Cloud system, some of the materials I needed to complete my lesson plans were not available to me ahead of time. I received access to my class on 12/30, and started my prep work that day. However, the schedule didn't factor in Spring Break so my class reading list was not lining up (just got an email with that announcement). So today is lesson planning day, and I hope to get the entire semester's lessons outlined by the weekend. My goal for teaching material is to have three lessons ready to go (power point, activities, etc.) for next week. Then I will create materials the week before based off the master plan. It seems like a good approach, and once I get the master plan created, and the resources made, I should be go if and when I am asked to teach this course again.

Lesson Planning for College Curriculum

This is my first attempt at creating college-level lesson plans. I spent six years creating home school lesson plans from scratch so you would think I would be a pro at this task. However, I am finding that I am challenged, to say the least, when it comes to teaching outcomes.

In our home education program we used Charlotte Mason's approach to teaching curriculum. We also used the wonderfully complete lesson plans created by the good folks at Ambleside Online. The AO curriculum provided general guidelines for our yearly study, a list of books, and a tentative reading schedule for 36 weeks of instruction. The actual teaching plans were left up to the parent, which gave incredible flexibility to allow the parent to customize the instruction for their particular family.

I had to customize our lesson plans to accommodate my son's particular interests - music and computers. Generally speaking, I created lesson plans that fit within our daily timeline. I didn't teach him, I facilitated his studies. The great thing about CM was that as teacher, I was set as a mentor rather than a distiller of information. I didn't lecture, and I didn't present information to my son. I provided some background history and detail, allowing the books to teach him directly. Therefore, my role was to guide his studies, to allow the books to teach whatever they wanted to teach. It was a good program, challenging and rigorous, and I loved the fact that I was able to instill a deep love of reading, a love of learning, and a love of intellectual study in my son (all of which is still present now that he is in college).

How then do I take what I did years ago and transfer it into a college course curriculum?

GCU provides a well organized syllabus for me to follow. They pre-load the quiz and essay assignment due dates and grading rubics into the learning management system. They do not load actual reading assignments or lessons. They do add lecture notes to the modules -- so in essence I am left with three days of "empty" space to fill with the goal of preparing students for the essays they will write or the quizzes they will complete at the end of the module. The course work, the actual teaching material is absent.

In a way, they have made the job of facilitator easier to start. Part of me thinks it would be easier to create my own syllabus where I would be in control from start to finish. I don't like that I have to teach to the outcome, but I do understand that is how the college assesses teacher effectiveness.

Is there a way to incorporate CM principles into a college classroom?

Just thinking aloud here, but I would love to figure out how to incorporate some of CM's teaching ideas into the college classroom. I learned how to teach by reading CM's Home Education series. While my son started late (5th grade), I did follow the curriculum suggestions up through 12th grade.  Oh, how I miss those days! I loved my home schooling days, and I loved planning and creating curriculum for my son to use. In fact, I spent hours creating weekly charts and designing an online system for my son to use to access his lessons. My website here was our online learning management system (before I knew of such things). My son would go to the website, click on the week and day and find his assignments. He then would complete his work, and we would meet together to discuss his observations and findings. It was a good way to do school, and I think it prepared him for the independent work he loves to do now.

Creating an approach that fits my style and aligns with college-level standards and outcomes

As I sit here blogging, I am thinking about ways in which I can create lesson plans that are reflective of my style. I have spent about 3-4 weeks reading about student-centered activities and learning approaches. I get it, I am on board with teaching to encourage student learning (versus teacher-centered where the teacher lectures). The goal of the student-centered pedagogy is to get students to take control of their own learning. By that I mean for students to be responsible for what they learn. They read, they process, they engage, and they learn. It is very CM-like. However, I am not sure how to fill up my time, and with what kinds of activities that will encourage learning.

Last semester, I student taught in three courses at GCU. Two were English Composition and one was a Developmental Writing course. Of the three, the latter was the most teacher-centric. The teacher was very good, and she created a structured environment for learning. The lessons were a combination of her teaching and student practice. In the other two courses, the teachers facilitated and the students spent the majority of the class time writing. I think that these courses were fairly easy to manage since the bulk of the curriculum was to prepare students to write three major essays only.

I am now teaching a Literature course in Short Story. As such, the dynamics of the learning experience has changed. The students may have some knowledge of the genre, and they may be familiar with some writers and stories. Or, they may know nothing at all. It is a gamble for me -- how to proceed -- and how to ensure I don't lose the student's interest at the get-go.

In some ways, teaching Literature is easier for me than teaching a course in writing. I don't know why I am freaked out about these plans. I should be jumping for joy to create lesson plans that cover this subject material. I think the problem is that I have spent the past couple weeks looking at what other teachers do rather than relying on my own skill and style to guide me. In short, I have been trying to pattern my style off of teachers who may be skilled at teacher-centered instruction or who may be comfortable presenting materials in traditional ways. I am not a traditional teacher. I am a CM-Educator who thinks students should learn on their own with little input from me, the teacher.

Moving Forward and Creating a Curriculum a la CM

I asked the Lord if I would ever have the opportunity to teach using CM methods again. I thought it would be great if I could teach using her suggestions and perhaps even write some papers about my experience. I never thought I would be in a position to actually do that, and I am not sure whether I am to do it now. I am willing, Lord, willing to structure these plans however you deem best. Please guide me in their creation and help me to be prepared for next week!

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