Saturday, December 12, 2015

Standards and Backward Mapping

The following is an exercise in which I describe some components intended to achieve a standard for a college-level course I'll be teaching to prison inmates starting in January. The course is History of Christianity II: Reformation to the Present. Specifically, we'll look at several proficiencies, assessments, and learning experiences designed to fulfill the standard.

The standard is:
  • "be able to recognize how Christianity’s internal struggles have impacted the church." 
You can learn more about the standard here

Here are three proficiencies that students should achieve to meet this standard:
  • Identify the two main perspectives on any divisive issue around which a group formed in opposition to the prevailing orthodox view (example: the appropriate age for baptism in the sixteenth century)
  • Identify a new independent grouping that formed as a result of these differences
  • Express in written or verbal form an understanding of the significance a breakaway sect or denomination
Here are three assessments that will indicate that students have met the standard:
  • A one-page reflection paper on how a specific historical instance of factional division within the church had a long-term effect or legacy
  • A series of questions on the mid-term exam that probe specific knowledge of important instances of sectarian formation
  • Observation of student answers and engagement during class discussions which address the existence of opposition from within the church to some aspect of the subject under consideration (there are many instances)
And here are three learning experiences or activities that will help students develop the knowledge and skills to meet the standard:
  • An in-class reading and discussion of a primary document such as a section of a formally adopted confession of faith addressing an issue on which groups split irreconcilably
  • An in-class “Socratic Dialogue” in which we seek to arrive at a consensus answer to a question around which historical divisions were apparent, such as the appropriate age for baptism.
  • An in-class debate between students representing the views of specific historical leaders, one side from the church hierarchy and the other spearheading a breakaway grouping.
The preceding has been an example of how to develop course plans by working backwards from the standard, which should have the effect of focusing greater attention on the purpose of any activity and enabling us to better judge its efficacy in achieving its intended goals.

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