Making Learning Outcomes Work: Decoding Tuning Assessments and Course Designs with Tools from the History Learning Project
International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History 1
In recent years the concept of learning outcomes has become familiar to large numbers of historians. Inspired by national programs such as the Quality in Undergraduate Education Initiative and the AHA Tuning Project, history faculties have made great strides toward defining what students studying history should be expected to know, do, and value. The cooperative process of innovating, conceptualizing, and arguing about outcomes has generated new energy for teaching in the profession. Moreover, talking about outcomes has led many to realize that articulating learning outcomes by itself is not enough. If the ultimate objective is improving student learning, worthy outcomes require more effective teaching strategies for reaching those outcomes.
Over the past twenty years, a growing scholarship of teaching and learning has advanced what we know about effective ways to increase learning in history courses. These models can be of enormous benefit to those who have concluded the process of articulating learning outcomes, such as Tuners, and are wondering “what to do next.”
In this session we will explore one of the most promising of these new approaches – the Decoding the Disciplines paradigm, applied to our discipline by the Indiana University History Learning Project. This process begins with history teachers identifying places where student learning is blocked and then systematically exploring the mental operations that students must master to overcome these obstacles. In this workshop, the Decoding process will be outlined and the results of extensive interviews with historians will be shared. In a “fishbowl” exercise, participants will observe a Decoding interview enacted and then will work together to imagine strategies by which the mental operations revealed in this exchange might be most effectively taught to students.
This session should interest historians wanting to find more effective ways to teach history. It will be of particular use to those involved in Tuning, since Decoding can provide a bridge for moving from the outcomes defined by the AHA’s Tuning Initiative to actual classroom teaching.