IPT Seminar Sep 25th: Dr. Ken Plummer

This post is connected with IPT 690, a graduate seminar course in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University.

For our graduate seminar this week, we had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Ken Plummer. Dr. Plummer is a graduate of our program and is currently working at the Center for Teaching and Learning at BYU.  The topic of Dr. Plummer’s seminar was their developed method of “Back-flip” design.  This course design methodology, incorporates Backwards Design, a model originally proposed by Wiggins and McTighe and the concept of a “flipped classroom”.

The backwards design component is something that seems ubiquitous in higher education.  It is basically the idea that when designing a course, we should start out by thinking about the main outcome that we want students to learn in the course.  This main outcome should subsume all other outcomes in the course or as Dr. Plummer put it, it should be “one outcome to rule them all”.  By setting this outcome and working backward, you will ensure that all of the content and formative outcomes will be working towards pushing students toward the main outcome.  The flip part of “back-flip” design comes from using the “flipped classroom model” in working toward those individual outcomes.

While Dr. Plummer’s framework seemed pretty commonsense, I was particularly intrigued by the idea of explicitly stating outcomes to students.  In higher education, we seem to devote a lot of time to the creation and correlation of learning outcomes.  I even recall the several times that I’ve spent at the beginning of a semester reading through course outcomes with a student (I hate to say it, but many times I have skipped through those outcomes with my students in favor of getting to the interesting part of the syllabus).  What do those course outcomes mean to the student however?  Are they simply assumed by the student when they take a class in a particular topic?  Are they only in the class because it is a required credit?

What I appreciated about Dr. Plummer’s examples were how the designed outcomes were tied closely to tangible competencies.  The example that he gave was a groundwater geology class (if my memory serves me correctly).  The main outcome of the class wasn’t assessed by merely taking a comprehensive exam, but it was assessed through the compilation of a detailed proposal and report done by the students, something that would mirror what they might do in the real world environment.  So while the “back flip” model doesn’t explicitly state it, it seems that in achieving the stated outcomes of the course, there is an attempt to create some more authentic and beneficial forms of assessments for the students.  That is always something that I appreciate.