Every good course design begins with a needs assessment. For our purposes here, we’re going to assume you’ve completed this assessment and you understand what your students need and what your objectives are for the course you’re designing. If you don’t know your objectives, you’re not ready to design your course.
Like any gathering of people for any reason, it’s good to begin at the beginning and address who is there, why they’ve gathered, what they hope to accomplish, and how they’ll accomplish it.
Welcome and Introduction
Build in 30 to 60 minutes at the opening of your class to conduct introductions and review your objectives and agenda. Your beginning will look something like this:
- Greet participants as they arrive.
- Introduce yourself and ask participants to do the same, giving their name and sharing what they expect to learn from the class. This is a good time to include an ice breaker that loosens people up and makes them feel comfortable sharing.
- Try one of these: 10 Fun Introductions for Day One
- Write their expectations on a flip chart or white board.
- State the objectives of the course, explaining why certain expectations on the list either will or won’t be met.
- Review the agenda.
- Review housekeeping items: where the restrooms are, when the scheduled breaks are, that people are responsible for themselves and should take a restroom break early if they need one. Remember, you’re teaching adults.
Divide your material into 50-minute modules. Each module will contain a warm up, a short lecture or presentation, an activity, and a debriefing, followed by a break. At the top of each page in your teacher’s guide, note the time needed for each section and the corresponding page in the student’s workbook.
Warm ups are short exercises (5 minutes or shorter) that get people thinking about the topic you are about to cover. It can be a game or simply a question. Self-assessments make good warm ups. So do ice breakers.
For example, if you’re teaching learning styles, a learning-style assessment would be a perfect warm up.
Keep your lecture to 20 minutes or less if possible. Present your information in full, but remember that adults generally stop retaining information after about 20 minutes. They will listen with understanding for 90 minutes, but with retention for only 20.
If you’re preparing a participant/student workbook, include a copy of the primary learning points of your lecture, and any slides you’re planning to use. It’s good for students to take notes, but if they have to furiously write everything, down, you’re going to lose them.
Design an activity that gives your students an opportunity to practice what they just learned. Activities that involve breaking into small groups to complete a task or to discuss an issue are good ways to keep adults engaged and moving. It is also a perfect opportunity for them to share the life experience and wisdom they bring to the classroom. Be sure to build in opportunities to take advantage of this wealth of relevant information.
Activities can be personal assessments or reflections that are worked on quietly and independently; they can be games or role playing; or they can be small group discussions. Choose your activity based on the best way to provide the adults in your class with an opportunity to experience what you just taught.
After an activity, it’s important to bring the group back together and have a general discussion about what was learned during the activity. Ask for volunteers to share reactions. Ask for questions. This is your chance to make sure the material was understood. Allow for 5 minutes. It doesn’t take long unless you discover that learning hasn’t happened.
Take a 10-minute Break
It’s important to get adult students up and moving every hour. This takes a bite out of your available time, but it’ll be well worth it because your students will be far more attentive when class is in session, and you’ll have fewer interruptions from people who have to excuse themselves.
Tip: While breaks are important, it’s crucial that you manage them well and begin again precisely on time, regardless of stragglers, or chatter will get carried away. Students will learn quickly that class begins when you said it would, and you’ll gain the respect of the entire group.
EvaluationEnd your courses with a short evaluation to determine whether or not your students found the learning valuable. Emphasis on the short. If your eval is too long, students won't take the time to complete it. Ask a few important questions:
- Were your expectations of this course met?
- What would you have liked to learn that you didn't?
- What was the most helpful thing you learned?
- Would you recommend this class to a friend?
- Please share comments about any aspect of the day.
This is just an example. Choose questions that are relevant to your topic. You're looking for answers that will help you improve your course in the future.