At the Backwards by Design (BbD) retreat last fall for every topic and assignment, I focused on a class I was about to teach the coming fall that is a core class at Fairhaven college. Every student entering Fairhaven, whether a student in their first year of college or a transfer student from main campus or another college or university, must take this class in the first quarter as a Fairhaven student. The class is 201: Critical and Reflective Inquiry. At Fairhaven, professors are encouraged to select a content area of their choosing – as the focus in the class is on writing and it is felt that this focus can be taught along with, or integrated with, any content area. I chose to focus on this class for the retreat, and resulting changes in my teaching, since the class is about writing and I feel a particular pressure to prepare new Fairhaven students for the writing-intensive classes they will be engaging in for the remainder of their college experience. I have, and still do, feel a tension in teaching this class between the focus on content and the focus on teaching writing; therefore, at the BbD retreat I struggled with this tension. In particular, I struggled in identifying a threshold concept to latch on to – should it be a content threshold concept (health as pervasive) or a writing threshold concept (writing research papers is an act of creatively joining a scholarly conversation). In the end, I focused more on the writing threshold concept and the majority of assignments revolved around writing practice – with a particular emphasis on writing research papers.
Schwandt, Hilary, "Backwards by Design Retreat and Teaching Mini-Assessment" (2015). Backward by Design Mini-Studies. 11.