Day 1

This is the first in a series of three interviews with Prof. Frieda Gufthausen.

Frieda Gufthausen

CC: Thank you for your time, professor.

Gufthausen: Not at all, dear child.

CC: When I design a new course, how should I start?

Gufthausen: With the goals, naturally.

CC: So list all of the topics I want in the course?

Gufthausen: That's a common mistake. It encourages you to simply throw everything in the course. But we know that including too much in a course is a bad idea.

CC: Why?

Gufthausen: Well, the course takes place over a limited time, like a semester. Too much content, and the students will only have time to memorize, not learn it.

CC: What's the difference?

Gufthausen Gufthausen: Night and day, child. To learn an idea is to know how to use it. Much more than mere memorization.

CC: Use the idea for what?

Gufthausen: Ach! Now you ask the right questions. Ask them of yourself. What do you want students to be able to do at the end of the course? You'll be on your way to working out the course goals.

CC: Hmm. So you start with the tasks, and work out what students need to learn to do those tasks.

Gufthausen: Yes. Learning to do is hard. You must make time for that in your course. You will end up talking about fewer ideas, but in more depth. This is what we mean by "deep learning."

CC: It sounds obvious.

Gufthausen: Perhaps, perhaps not. But deep learning is not common practice. Despite the abundant evidence of its efficacy.

CC: Why?

Gufthausen: (Sigh) Too many subject matter experts think that, because they know the subject, they know how to teach it. But they don't. They don't even know what should be taught.

CC: But they are experts, aren't they?

Gufthausen Gufthausen: Not in learning! They have not studied how learning works. They have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner. Because they took to the subject and became experts, they have never faced the challenges experienced by the average student. This is called "the expert's blind spot."

CC: Do you have other advice for course design?

Gufthausen: Think about student motivation. The time available for the course. Student preparation. Do they have basic skills? All of these and more.

CC: Thank you, professor. May we continue tomorrow?

Gufthausen: But of course, dear child.