(Kurita) Hello, everyone. (Student) Hello. (Kurita) Welcome to “Interactive Teaching” WEEK 5. This week’s topic is “Let’s design a more useful syllabus." We would like to learn about visualizing the structure of a course in a syllabus for this course. Before starting on the main topic, let me clarify the goal for this week. This week’s goal is “Acquire the skills to design a more useful syllabus to promote students’ learning. The fourth objective will be examined this session: “Be able to explain the significance and the methods to utilize a graphic syllabus". Here is the table of contents. It consists of six items: the significance of visualizing the structure of a course, the limits of a usual syllabus (this is the so-called syllabus you are familiar with), a graphic syllabus (you are likely unfamiliar with this phrase), samples of graphic syllabuses, methods to utilize a graphic syllabus, and the wrap-up. Let us begin. In the last session, Mr. Sato talked about the structure and design of a schedule for the whole course. Mr. Sato, what does it mean to visualize the structure of a course? To deepen our understanding of this matter, let me ask a question of you all. Please look at this figure. The upper two (A and B) belong to one group, and the lower two (C and D) belong to the other group. What kind of differences in characteristics can you find between these two groups? Think about it for a few seconds. How about you, Ozawa-san? (Student) The upper group, especially A, seems to be scattered and a bit difficult to make out. (Sato) Being scattered. (Student) Yes. (Sato) Yes. (Student) And the lower group is quite easy to understand. C is structured in a hierarchy, and D is in the form of a network. (Sato) I see. While A and B seem to be scattered, C and D are systematic and are densely structured in terms of their relationships. In addition, take a look at the number of components. There are less components in A and B than the other two. These are the knowledge structures of novices and experts. A and B are for novices, in other words the amateurs in a particular field. They lack knowledge and the knowledge they do have is scattered. On the contrary, the knowledge structure of experts is composed of rich knowledge, as you can see, and the components are structured and relate well to one another. Therefore, even if an unexpected event happened, experts could identify the required knowledge and solve the problem in a fairly short time. Novices, on the other hand, possess only a few pieces of information, so they get confused when confronted with an unexpected problem, even if they had experience, unsystematic knowledge makes it difficult
for the novices to search for appropriate information and it would take a long time. These are the characteristics of the knowledge structures of novices and experts. I would like to show you another example. Take a look at the text in red letters. This is a text about students written by an instructor in charge of a¥Anatomy. It says that students are able to explain topics in parts, but once they are asked cross-sectional questions, namely questions about relationships, they cannot answer at all. Mizukoshi-san, you learned Nursing as a student and are going to teach it in the future. Have you ever experienced this situation? (Student) Yes, I experienced this as a student. (Sato) I think you would have frantically tried to memorize topics in parts. (Student) Yes. (Sato) But it is difficult to integrate different topics. (Student) Yes. I could study hard and manage to learn what kind of functions each organ has, but I felt it was difficult to explain how a symptom or a disease occurred according to the relationships between several causes. (Sato) I see. Prof. Kurita, have you ever seen a student facing a problem like this when delivering a class? (Kurita) Yes. I am in charge of a statistics class There I teach students testing and analyzing methods and it seems that they manage to learn and use those various methods, but they don’t often realize which methods to apply in certain situations, even if they are supposed to have the appropriate knowledge. (Sato) That is exactly the problem novices are likely to encounter. We must guide those novices to become experts in the field, but how? Is that possible to accomplish by using syllabuses? Let’s think about that. The next topic is about the limits of a usual syllabus. Some of you might have used tables, but I think the syllabuses you have made are all written using text. I call this “usual syllabus” as a whole. There are limits to a usual syllabus. As I mentioned, the knowledge of an instructor, who is an expert in that field, is well structured. The structured knowledge is broken into pieces for 15 classes. What we want the students to do is to integrate those pieces of knowledge in the same way as experts, but most of them fail to do that. Students who had problems in nursing and statistics fall into this category. A usual syllabus has limitations in this sense. Adding a graphical representation to the text enables students to grasp the structured knowledge as it is. I call it a “graphical syllabus,” since it enables educators to convey the knowledge structure of experts directly to novices, and I strongly recommend you make good use of it. Let’s move on to the details. A graphic syllabus is defined as “a flowchart or diagram that displays the sequencing and organization of major course topics through the semester” (Nilson, 2007). It is close to a concept map (Novak, 1996) or a mind map; I think you have heard of these phrases. These have been applied to a syllabus. They are very effective in organizing and structuring knowledge and stimulating the learners’ attention. A graphical representation is also said to be effective in opening students’ eyes, promoting their comprehension of concepts, and remaining in their memory. Here is one example of a graphic syllabus. I think you have seen this many times. Did you design this, Prof. Kurita? (Kurita) Yes, we designed it in a team with graduate students through lots of trial and error. (Sato) Why did you design it for a syllabus? (Kurita) Since we are covering various kinds of topics in eight weeks, I thought students might get lost and even we might also get lost. Therefore, I wanted to present an image that would enable us to know what we are learning right now by giving an overview of the course. (Sato) I see. A graphic syllabus is namely a learning map. I think it is effective for the students’ learningin that they can learn by always keeping in mind the whole structure. If you were going to make a graphic syllabus, how could you make use of it? Think about it for a while. How about you, Hodrigo-san? How would you use it if you became an instructor? (Student) What you can cover at any one time in a class is only a small part of the whole content, so I think using a graphic syllabus would be an effective way of showing how each class is placed in the course. (Sato) When would you show the syllabus? (Student) At the beginning or the end of the class. (Sato) Do you mean “in the first class of 15 sessions”? (Student) Yes, in the first class. (Sato) Do you mean in the first and fifteenth class? (Student) No, I mean in every class. (Sato) I see. In every class. (Student) I think it would be effective for learning by presenting to the students the place of each topic for each class in the whole structure. (Sato) I see. So,you present the syllabus at the beginning and the end of every 90-minute class. Thank you. I also use the syllabus in that way, and I think it is effective to show the syllabus in the first class and also in every class. Some instructors don’t present the whole picture at the start and instead show small parts during each class so that the students can understand the whole structure at the end of the course as if they have completed a jigsaw puzzle. In this case, instructors would not show the syllabus after all, but could check the learning outcomes by having their students write a syllabus of their own. Regardless of showing the syllabus to the students or not, making a syllabus can lead to a good course design. I once realized that I packed too much content into a course by making a syllabus, and eventually cut some of it. (Kurita) Now, let’s wrap up. (Sato) The significance of visualizing the structure of a course is that it stimulates students’ attention, promotes the comprehension of concepts, and is effective in remaining in their memory. A graphic syllabus is an excellent type of syllabus to bring out those roles, since it displays the sequencing and organization of major course topics through the semester. I strongly recommend you make use of this type of syllabus. (Kurita) That’s all for this session.