How do you justify including an element in a college course? (or a Summer Goal)

I’ve been thinking about what justifies including an element (a reading, section, assessment, exercise, etc.) in a course. My first thought: each item must relate directly to learning outcomes.

But that can’t be right, can it? After all, we spend classtime on administrative minutiae (like roll and due dates) and assessments and it seems pretty straightforward that assessing isn’t learning. On the other hand, that line of thinking implies a pretty simplistic understanding of these elements (as if assessments can ONLY ASSESS and nothing else).

Perhaps, then, it’s a worthwhile goal for us as teachers to understand seemingly non-pedagogical course elements in ways that give them pedagogical value. Put another way: instead of focusing on whether or not a course element in itself relates to learning outcomes, we should focus on whether we can relate it through how we use it or accomplish its task. We know we need to assess, but if we’re careful, perhaps we can create assessments that also reinforce students’ learning.

So we try to understand course elements complexly: accomplishing their non-pedagogical goals, but in ways that help students with course content. This seems like a worthwhile goal, especially as we launch into the summer heyday of course revision and development.

In this light, I’ll talk about how I take attendance in the next two posts. I call my technique Question Roll and in addition to accomplishing its administrative task, Question Roll builds community and can contribute to students learning course content.


About benjaminjh

Benjamin Hassman is Director of the Conversation Center ( and a Lecturer in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa. The Conversation Center builds on his experience with Service-learning, peer-leadership programs (like the Berwick Boys Foundation) and teaching for the Rhetoric Minor, including Speaking Skills, Advanced Speaking Skills, and the Conversation Center’s own RHET 2090 Conversation Practicum (based on an experiential learning model). His PhD in Philosophy of Language studied paradoxes, and their implication for how we understand the relationship between our sentences and the world.
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1 Response to How do you justify including an element in a college course? (or a Summer Goal)

  1. Pingback: Question Roll 2: Integrating Pedagogy | Filling the Chalkboard

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