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Reflecting on CM in your Syllabus

When thinking about curriculum mapping (CM), one of the ways that we often represent our curriculum is as a bulleted list or table in our syllabus. So, I took my syllabus and then built sketches to explore how I think about the curriculum and how I might represent it to myself, my colleagues, or students.

First, here is the original mapping:

Week Science Meaning making Skills
1 Foundations of observation Braiding:Skywoman Falling (3-10)Asters and Goldenrod (39-47) Starting observations, Cornell notes, Model introduction
2 Individuals Braiding: Learning the Grammar of Animacy (48-62), The Honorable Harvest (175-205) Observations of individuals, Sketch notes, Mind mapping
3 Populations Braiding: Witness to the rain (293-302), Collateral damage (348-359) Observations of populations, Concept mapping introduction, Graphic literacy
4 Communities Braiding: Wisgaak Gokpenagen: A Black Ash Basket (141-155), Mishkos Kenomagwen (156-166), Umbilicaria: The Belly Button of the World (268-276) Observations of communities, Quantifying concept maps
5 Ecosystems Braiding: A mother’s work (82-97), Maple Nation (167-174), Sitting in a circle (223-240) Observations of ecosystems, Equations as models
6 Biosphere Braiding: The sacred and the superfund (310-340), Windigo Footprints (303-309) Large-scale observations, Graphs as models
7 Synthesis Braiding:Burning of cascade head (241-253), People of corn, people of light (341-347) Summary of models and final project

From this, I started with how would I represent the progression of biological ideas and then progressed through ideas as they occurred to me. These are the sketches I made, so they do not necessarily represent maps that I would show to the audiences but ones that might help me think.

Timeline (audience: students/faculty)

Timeline of the course that shows the general structure of the course follows the complexity of ecosystem structures: starting with the individual and ending with biosphere concepts.

At its core, this is just a timeline of how we progress through the topic of ecology over the course, tying in biotic and abiotic elements. What I like about this map is that it isolates the disciplinary elements we are covering in the class, and provides a schema for students to organize the information that they will be covering over the next seven weeks. This type of map might impact students by providing information organization, along the lines of chunking/segmentation/advance organizers. One of the thoughts it has left me with though is thinking about the courses other set of readings from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: How would I represent them in this diagram or even if I need to as the selected readings follow a similar scale as the biological progression. This is also missing the chapters and page numbers covered in the original table and points out the difference for using a syllabus as a reference document versus using the syllabus as a communication device. Not that these are mutually exclusive, but many times focusing on one approach impacts the other.

Module components diagram (students/faculty)

Breakdown of the four general activities that make up a module and those that require a journal entry.

The general idea of this CM is that it maps out the general assignments for each module and which ones have journal entries associated. I’m a big fan of repeated structure, so once you can get students to understand the expectations, the less likely that structure becomes a barrier to student success.

Module timeline (students)

An idealized timeline for how students through should progress through a module’s activities throughout the week and an estimate of the amount of time to complete.

Once I had the various activities for each module (that takes place over a week’s time), I thought it was important to give an estimate for how long it would take to complete each of the assignments and the order that it would make most sense to engage the material (background information, discussion, application). These are general estimates that I should ask students about to get a better sense of. This order also mimics the order they are presented in the course, but I wonder how many students go through the materials as intended and how coherent is the material when taken out of order.

Time and motivation table (self-reflection)

Table of tasks in the class, how long they should take and an indication of their intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors. Only the modeling exercise lacked some element of intrinsic motivation.
Most activities have elements with both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, except the modeling exercises…should I restructure to improve motivation?

After providing the estimated times for each activity, it made me wonder about how am I structuring student motivation for the time commitments, whether or not they were driven by intrinsic (Int) or extrinsic (Ext) factors. For most of the assignments I had elements that had both motivators. For example, most assignments have a graded component, but also some intrinsic motivators, such as autonomy (e.g. in picking sites for application of course theories or readings they would be interested in) or relatedness (e.g. connecting with other students). Questions I’m left with is should I build in intrinsic motivators for modeling exercises, and are there enough intrinsic motivators for the high commitment cost for the readings?

Related to the last map, I checked with the course management system about student access to the files for the above exercises, and here is the chart I generated:

Data pulled from the learning management system that shows most students are accessing course files, except a gentle decline in the discussion forum and a precipitous drop in accessing the Overview files of the course.

From these data, the overview documents are obviously being less accessed as the class goes on, with also a small dip in the discussion forum as the class progresses. To followup on the discussion forum metrics, I might pull the viewing/responding stats and see what other signals from the forum might tell me.

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