Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
The Complete Guide to Teaching a Course (2nd ed.)
The Complete Guide to Teaching a Course (2nd ed.)
Ian Forsyth, Alan Jolliffe and David StevensKogan Page1999
Keywords: Structure, Learning, World Wide Web
This series of four books is described as providing "practical strategies for teachers, lecturers and trainers in planning, preparing, delivering and evaluating a course".
With a total number of pages in excess of 500, the strength of this series of books lies in the comprehensive way they address every aspect of writing a course, from the documentation of learning objectives and plans, to the design and development of learning materials, to the writing of evaluation instruments. The overview that they provide on computer-managed learning and the World Wide Web is also useful
However, as the books are attempting to appeal to the wide and diverse readership of teachers, lecturers and trainers within both academic and non-academic institutions, the challenge for this reader, as a management training consultant in a commercial environment, is in finding consistent relevance in the material and practical application of the strategies presented. The authors' claim (in the first book) that "the processes, procedures and outcomes or products described in each chapter are versatile enough to be adapted for use ... from the school classroom to the video conference training seminar" is somewhat overstated. Although there are a number of interesting tools and insights provided in each book, there are an equivalent number of strategies that many trainers working in a commercial environment simply could not apply.
In the first book, Planning a Course, the authors provide a systematic approach to determining the needs, planning the project, developing the learner profile, writing learning objectives and assessing the learners. Interesting chapters include those on developing a course information document (a useful tool for analysis and planning) and writing learning objectives (particularly useful for those new to the process). A recommendation the authors make is that "you will need approximately 20 hours of development time for every one hour of course time if you use print-based materials and they are delivered directly to the learners in a face-to-face mode". If you do have that amount of time, unrestricted access to the learners prior to the training and are involved in "engaging instructional designers, writers, graphic artists and editors" much of this book would be useful to you. For those of us less fortunate, this book requires a significant amount of time and patience in sifting the material for useful content.
In Preparing a Course, the authors address delivery options, writing materials, issues of access, equity and participation, and introduce the concept of "the independent learner". Particularly interesting and practical chapters are found on writing distance learning materials, preparing teaching materials for your use and preparing teaching materials for someone else to use. There is also an interesting overview to preparing online materials. This is the most useful and accessible book of the series, provided that the reader has a significant involvement in writing courses.
The third book in the series, Delivering a Course, begins by exploring the concept of open learning. The authors define an open learning setting as one where "learners are given some choices in terms of learning materials, learning styles and the location of where some of the learning takes place". The proposition that "in an open learning setting instructional materials play a major role in helping learners to learn" sets the tone for the book - the content, again, being clearly focused on the development of materials, assessment tests and tools for tracking and evaluating the learning of participants.
The chapter dedicated to the delivery of training in a "classroom" environment is lacking in useful detail. For example, although the authors refer to a range of learning activities - role plays, brainstorming, games, etc. - there is no exploration of when or how to use these activities. Furthermore, the chapter entitled "Interaction with a purpose" focuses on how the learners interact with written material rather than on how trainers manage interaction with the learners. Clearly this is not a book for trainers who want to gain useful insights into developing their own skills as facilitators of learning.
The final book in the series, Evaluating a Course, offers some highly practical strategies for Level 1 (reaction) evaluation, the evaluation of learning materials and evaluating online learning. The authors make a valid case that in well-constructed learning objectives there are performance criteria which enable Level 2 (learning) and Level 3 (behavioural change) evaluation to take place. Unfortunately they do not provide a practical range of tools and techniques for gathering evidence of that learning and behavioural change within a commercial/business environment where setting tests for learners is frequently seen as being impractical and/or inappropriate.
The authors' statement that "in most cases learners want to be told if they have passed" demonstrates the bias of this book towards those working in an educational environment and illustrates much of the challenge in applying the strategies within the context of the trainer and learner being "intelligent collaborators in learning".
Joan HenshawLearning Consultant