Discovering Curricular Problems

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You are a senior faculty member in a large department at an urban community college. One of the courses you teach is a required second-year course that students take just before they graduate. You have been noticing for some time that the students coming into your courses do not seem as prepared as they once did. Although your course has several prerequisites, students coming to your class often do not have the skills and knowledge you would expect them to have if they had successfully completed the prerequisites. You have spoken a few times to your colleagues who teach the prerequisite courses to see if they have noticed anything, or started doing anything differently, and they assure you that nothing has changed for them. Any number of possible explanations could exist for what you have observed in your class. Think about curricular design, objectives, and assessment. This is a role play, so you should respond in the voice of a senior faculty member. Please address the following questions:

  1. How will you systematically identify the root problem? Do not simply assume that students are lazy or emotionally immature. You are looking to identify the problem with fact, not just opinion. Do not discuss what the problem is, but what you would do to identify the problem.
  2. What are some strategies you might use to resolve the problem?

How would advise them if the course or program in question was offered online instead of face to face.

  1. What data would you use within an online course to identify the problem with factual data?
  2. How would you use the online course data to develop strategies to improve student prerequisite skills?
  3. What online strategies would you implement to assess and remediate the prerequisite skills?


Textbook: Diamond, R. M. (2008). Designing and assessing courses and curricula: A practical guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chapter 13: “Clarifying Instructional Goals and Learning Outcomes”

Chapter 14: “Designing and Implementing Your Assessment Plan: Overview and Assessing a Curriculum”

Chapter 15: “Designing and Implementing Your Assessment Plan: Assessing a Course” Guiding Questions

You may find the following resources in the Diamond text to be helpful for your work in this unit.

B: “Student Learning, Assessment, and Accreditation”

G: “Questions for Evaluating a College Course”

L: “Examples of Outcome Statements”

O: “Curriculum Review: The Questions to Ask”

S: “Teaching Goals Inventory: Self-Scorable Version”

From the Library:

Dezure, D., Lattuca, L., Dey Huggett, K., Smith, N., & Conrad, C. (n.d.). Higher education curriculum – National reports on the undergraduate curriculum, traditional and contemporary perspectives – innovations in the undergraduate curriculum. Retrieved from

Morris, L. (2006). Integrating new ideas in course design, implementation, and evaluation. Innovative Higher Education, 31(2), 81-82.

Forsyth, D. R. (2016). Guiding: Student-centered approaches to teaching. In College teaching: Practical insights from the science of teaching and learning (pp. 71-104). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/14777-004

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