SoTL SHOWCASE: This is Going to Hurt: Re-Designing Courses with Previously Enrolled Students (5 min lightning talk in 90 minute roundtable)


  • Justin Ramsdell George Mason University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Assistant Professor - Psychology



NOTE: This is a 5-minute presentation that is part of a 90-min SoTL Showcase Lightning Talks and Roundtable Discussion.

A. Challenge-Once a course has been designed and taught to students, updates to the course often take for form of small edits. Even when well-intentioned instructors carefully read student feedback an adjust a course to meet that feedback, the instructor can fall prey to a very specific, but significant limitation… They are doing everything alone. This isolation can affect the creativity of lessons and assignments, allow instructors to continue to cover information of limited relevance, and/or prevent the information in the course from being presented in way that covers the necessary “base” information in an adequate way (a form of expertise bias).

B. Solution Strategy – Implementing a new course re-design strategy can solve these issues and help create a re-designed course that more adequately meets the learning objectives and is significantly more engaging. Following the conclusion of a course, the instructor invites 3-4 students who were enrolled in that course to participate in a semester-long re-design of that same course. The course is stripped down to the learning objectives and everything, from the course structure, the textbook, the assignments, and the lectures are questioned, evaluated, and re-designed. All with the input of students who have just taken the course.

C. Context/Evidence – This presentation will provide an outline for how this process has worked, and evolved, through the implementation from three separate courses. Original course syllabi, assignments, and learning outcomes will be shared, and compared, to re-designed course syllabi, assignments, and learning outcomes. Additionally, the process that has emerged through three trials of this strategy will be explained so that interested instructors may implement this strategy themselves.

D. Teaching Principles and Research That Inform This Practice – This process is an exercise in critical self-examination since the participants are freely encouraged to criticize every aspect of the course. The teaching principles, including Bloom’s Taxonomy, what makes an effective assignment, and principles that make an engaging presentation are shared with participating students and incorporated into the final re-designed course. While this strategy certainly involves teaching principles, this presentation will focus more on “getting over yourself” and turning the tables or criticism to create a better course.

E. Format – The presentation will begin by briefly outlining the issues with our current form of student feedback and will then transition to the process created by the presenter to remedy these issues. This includes the selection of the participants, how to run this as a for-credit course, the methods used to ensure the students act as a “brain trust” and not unpaid workers, and the feedback from students who have participated in this process.

Author Biography

Justin Ramsdell, George Mason University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Assistant Professor - Psychology

****TEA 2019 Winner****

Dr. Ramsdell is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. In addition to teaching psychology at the undergraduate level he also works as a forensic psychologist; serving as an expert witness consultant, primarily in cases involving law enforcement officer use of force and crisis de-escalation with individuals experiencing mental health crises. He also serves as a trainer for federal and local government law enforcement agencies and local police Crisis Intervention Teams.





THURSDAY 1:00pm-2:30pm SoTL Showcase: Lightning Talks & Roundtable