Curating Content: The Virtue of Modules

Now that you have goals, an outline of your capstone and scaffolding assignments, and a plan for providing feedback and collecting evidence from those assignments, it is time to fill out the rest of your course with readings, films, practice problems, field trips, and the like. Although you likely have had ideas and plans with regard to this daily content since you defined the topic for your course, now is the time to truly curate it with your students in mind. As in every step of designing or revising a course, it is an iterative process. Filling in the course with curated content, you may realize something important is missing. Fully incorporating a text, object, or experience into your teaching plans should involve more than simply listing it on the syllabus—it may even involve revising an assignment in hindsight.

There are many criteria that one might employ when choosing content—will you choose articles which represent the very latest state of the field? or stick to “classics” and “greatest hits”? Will you choose a widely adopted, but expensive, textbook? or one which is functionally equivalent but more affordable? Are you using particular examples because they are a case study or because they are the example of a phenomena? Why are you having students develop particular skills and not others?

Ask, too, about how representative or critical your course materials are. Are multiple identities and communities represented and respected as legitimate sources of critique or knowledge? Consider whether or not the readings, visual and audio content, and examples you use in class are communicating and welcoming diversity. If you find that your course materials are homogenous across some metric, ask: why? Is this homogeneity inherited? Was there a deliberate choice to limit the diversity of the materials, and is that choice truly serving the course’s teaching and learning aims? Whatever the answers, find ways to express how practitioners and perspectives from a wide range of backgrounds have a place in your discipline. For example, draw on underrepresented scholars and showcase their successes. When this is not possible, be forthright about this reality and acknowledge how this limitation can constrain what counts as knowledge in your discipline.

All of these questions are still important in making content selections, but you should start by considering the content, examples, and demonstrations that students will need before being able to complete each of your assignments.

This orientation does not address issues of which examples to use or how long students need to spend with each piece of content. A helpful way for thinking through and organizing these pieces of content is to organize your course into modules or units. These modules may build to a final point or taken together they may allow students to fulfill your learning goals. A common way to create these modules is to look at the various summative assignments that you have planned and schedule them for the end of each module. In thinking about your content in modules, some content may come together nicely as a unit but not have a culminating, summative assignment. This is another opportunity to revisit the scaffolding of your course.