Writing Course Outlines

As you know, most of our schools have been established over the course of the last 10-15 years. When we look at the character and quality of education these schools have and are providing, we can see many indications that God has given His blessing upon it. These schools have not always had the latest equipment, the most prestigious facilities, the schedules have not always been optimal, but despite these things education in our schools have been remarkably blest. In this we can see that it is better to have a little with the blessing of the Lord than to have much without that blessing.

But still our hands must not be slack in doing what we are called upon to do. We are called to do with all our might that which our hands find to do. 1Ms means that we must be diligent in preparing, diligent in planning, and diligent in building curriculums, lesson plans, etc. It is important for us to think ahead and to try to make the quality of education we provide even better than that which is given today. One way that this can be done is to conduct a school-wide or section-of-school-wide project of developing course outlines. Writing course outlines addresses in one effort the gathering of work done in the past, the planning for work done in the future, and the providing of a guide to identify what precisely is being taught in any given course or grade.

First of all, let us define what is meant by a course outline. There are many terms that are used to describe various types of plans or programs, so it would be good to first of all identify what a course outline actually is. It can be defined by listing and describing its four component parts.

a. The first part is the title page. This page contains some basic information about the course such as the course title, area of study, levels at which the course is taught, the credit value of that course, the instructor, text, and some- times other major resources that are used in teaching that course.

b. The second part of the course outline is the general objective. This part is quite self-explanatory and basically is the same as a course summary found in a course handbook. It contains a very global overview of the course content and sometimes a basic statement as to why the course is being taught.

c. The third part is the unit outline. This part identifies the units covered in the course and the time allocated to

covering each of these units. The sum of these time slots of course would add up to the amount of time devoted to the entire course. The identification of these units is very important as they provide a way of identifying what really is covered in the course and they provide a good division point as to where to give unit tests, etc.

d. The fourth and final part of the written part of the course outline are the objectives for each of the units covered. The number of these objectives can vary from one course to another, but there should be a minimum of four objectives per unit. Writing these objectives will be discussed later, but the thought that goes into the writing of them is time very well spent. The next point to be addressed is what to do with these parts of the course outline and how to use them. A binder is identified for each course and dividers inserted, labeled with the names of each of the units in that course. Then as the course progresses, all handouts, overheads, quizzes, supplementary articles, sample sheets, tests, etc. are inserted behind the appropriate divider. The purpose for this may be self-evident. First, it serves to help to keep materials together in an organized format. It is time-consuming, frustrating, and detrimental to be searching for a test or handout that was used in a previous year. Second, it serves as a guide for the course outline and binder is meant as an available resource, the topic outline of which should be followed. But the rest of the materials are there to be used as the teacher sees fit. This is an important point to be recognized - else teaching becomes unresponsive to the unique nature of each class, and to the dynamics of the moment in the classroom. When these things are completed, a logical next step may be undertaken. This is to work on developing unit lesson plans which are specifically designed to organize information taught, without dictating the style and manner in which it is taught. An important point to consider is the mechanics of actually writing these outlines. When you consider writing course outlines as a whole project, it may seem overwhelming. For this reason the process can be divided into four steps, each of which seems more manageable given time constraints. The order and amount of work can be addressed in various time periods and is indicated as follows:

a. Cover page - A blank form can be used by all teachers in listing information. As simple as this may seem, it is very helpful to gather the same kind of information and to get all the information together in the same standard format. These pages can be completed in a matter of an hour for all the courses a given teacher teaches.

b. Unit Outline - Again, a blank standard form is helpful. This may take a little more time. It is remarkable how the completion of this form forces one to think about how much time is appropriate to be spent on each unit, which units are important, which may be optional, etc. For some subjects this step may be very straightforward. It is little more than selecting from a table of contents, and assigning a time line.

c. Unit Objectives - This is perhaps the most time consuming part of writing a course outline. In general, there should be a minimum of four objectives written for each unit. Guidelines for these four objectives are as follows:

l. One objective should focus on the skills the students are expected to acquire as a result of studying that unit.

2. Another objective should focus on student attitude or perspective that is expected to be developed as a result of studying that unit.

3. Another objective should focus on what the precepts or principles of God’s Word are on this unit of study.

4. A final objective should focus on how students will apply their learning to everyday life as a student or as an adult.

d. Collection of data - 1Ms part is completed as the school year progresses. It is suggested that a certain amount of time be designated by each teacher to collect and file information and to reconsider past and future content. The value of course outlines is directly related to the efficiency and dedication with which they are periodically updated.

A fringe benefit of writing these course outlines would be for public informational purposes. The written part of this outline would serve as a convenient summary for a certification or evaluation team, and also for parents or other interested persons such as college admissions officers who may wish to know what is actually being taught in a given course.

In summary, it may seem like the writing of course outlines is a lot of work, and it is. But it is worth it. Consistent use, monitoring, and updating of course outlines helps each teacher to stay focused, to plan and teach efficiently and to utilize materials and efforts that have been accumulated during a teaching career. This translates into more effective teaching.