• Nathan Belcher

Process for Implementing, Developing, or Modifying a Course


One of the challenging parts of teaching is the expectation that a teacher should be proficient at every part of teaching. This is the source of much angst among teachers switching courses/grade levels and early-career teachers—depending on the magnitude of the change, the teacher can struggle to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to have a successful class.

I have experienced this struggle during my career; in the past five years, I have taught six different courses:

  • Physical Science — CP and Honors levels

  • Algebra 1

  • Computer and Software Engineering

  • Physics — CP and Honors levels

  • AP Physics C: Mechanics

  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

Teaching many different courses—and completing an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction—has impacted the way I think about implementing, developing, and modifying courses; I have created a thought process when teaching a new course or modifying a previously-taught course.

Here is the process:

First Time Teaching the Course

  • Determine how your philosophy of education intersects with the course

  • Determine the general instructional strategies/methods for the course

  • Determine constraints regarding the time, location, standards, students, etc.

  • Use a general sequence of content to create a storyline

  • Create an overarching essential question for each unit

  • Learn general content knowledge

  • Determine the foundational assessment strategy for the course

  • Align assessments to content

  • Reflect on the successes and failures of each section, noting ways to improve

Second Time Teaching the Course

  • Refine the storyline so that it makes logical sense

  • Develop supporting questions for the essential question in each unit

  • Increase content knowledge to anticipate questions

  • Expand assessment types and structure

  • Reflect on the successes and failures of each section, noting ways to improve

Third Time Teaching the Course

  • Refine the storyline to challenge student preconceptions, allowing opportunities for students to change their conceptions

  • Develop questions for each lesson

  • Increase content knowledge to anticipate student preconceptions and difficulties

  • Determine optimal assessment types and structure

  • Reflect on the successes and failures of each section, noting ways to improve

Fourth Time Teaching the Course

  • Refine the storyline so that all content—questions, information, and application—follows a logical path

  • Refine questions with relation to the storyline

  • Increase content knowledge of related content

  • Refine assessments to align with the best practices of assessment creation

  • Reflect on the successes and failures of each section, noting ways to improve

Fifth Time and Beyond Teaching the Course

  • Refine curriculum storyline

  • Refine questions

  • Increase content knowledge

  • Refine assessments

  • Reflect on the successes and failures of each section, noting ways to improve

Complementing the process outlined above, I have listed questions that need to be answered by every teacher for every course. [As an aside, I named it “Flight Check” because I wrote most of this information while on a flight.] These questions are foundational for any course; they could be used for a group discussion or as an individual reflection.

Flight Check for Courses

What are my constraints?

  • Number of students in the course?

  • What are the characteristics of each student in the course?

  • How much time with students?

  • Do I have the necessary materials and/or equipment?

What is my philosophy of education?

  • Theory of learning

  • Pedagogy

  • Assessments

What are the expectations for the curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

  • How does my philosophy of education interact with the constraints and expected curriculum, instruction, and assessment to maximize student learning?

  • How well do I know the curriculum—content and standards?

  • What is the storyline for the curriculum?

  • What instructional strategies are useful for student learning?

  • How do the assessments support student learning?

  • Are the assessments aligned with the curriculum and instruction?

What is the best use of technological tools?

  • How can I leverage technological tools to provide creative outlets for students?

  • How can I leverage technological tools to increase the workflow efficiency for myself and students?

I hope these sets of thoughts and questions will help as you implement, develop, and modify courses. Please respond to this post if you have any comments, concerns, or questions.

Thanks for reading!

#education #curriculum #instruction #assessment

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© 2020 by NATHAN BELCHER

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