Frameworks for Student Course Design

Motivation for Students

Frameworks for Student Course Design

College and university instructors are expected to provide high quality learning environments and experiences for students, and an important component of superior instruction is having a well-thought-out framework for each course that is taught. Before there can be a design for a course, there needs to be a framework for that design. Does the framework for any particular course contain the structures, the assumptions, and the activities that are required in order to meet the objectives of the course — and promote intellectual growth? This is a pivotal question when referencing effective frameworks (Lattuca, 2011).

In this paper three frameworks will be examined: Bloom’s and Anderson and Krathwohl’s Framework; Perry’s and Baxter-Magolda’s Framework; and Fink’s Framework. Thesis: If instructors fail to put a great deal of pedagogically adroit preparation into frameworks, students will not have the maximum opportunity for learning to solve problems.

Bloom’s and Anderson and Krathwohl’s Framework

The taxonomies for these frameworks are hierarchical; students are asked to show they can perform at the bottom of the learning curve, and the framework leads them upward (Nilson, 2010). After the student has learned the principles and concepts of the course design, he is asked to continue basically applying the knowledge he has acquired to more sophisticated issues and problems. The environment best suited for this framework would be a freshman or lower-level course — or a course for older people returning to school.

The positive aspect of this framework: it is appropriate in particular for students studying law and medicine among other technical fields, but not as ideal for the liberal arts and humanities. Students are asked first to analyze the problem that has been presented; then to evaluate that issue or problem — what knowledge previously acquired will help solve the problem — and finally to innovate or create a strategy that will solve the problem.

Perry’s and Baxter-Magolda’s Framework

In this framework students are expected to thoroughly understand and be able to explain difficult theories for certain issues and phenomenon; they will demonstrate that there often is no one correct answer and that authorities aren’t always correct (Nilson, 2010). Moreover, students are asked to choose one of the interpretations or theories and offer intellectual back-up for their choice, justifying it through their understanding of it. The best environment for this framework would probably be for advanced, experienced students.

If there are weaknesses or limitations — or if there is uncertainty — in the interpretation the students arrive at, then there may have been a better outcome and hence, the students must tackle that problem from a new, fresh angle (Nilson, 2010). The aspect that is weak vis-a-vis this framework is that it only works well with philosophy, literature, and the arts as well, because those are more readily given to interpretation by students. The positive side of this framework is that students learn that authorities are often flawed, with can boost their morale.

Fink’s Framework

Unlike Bloom’s and Anderson and Krathwohl’s Framework, Fink’s frameworks are cumulative and interactive and there is no sequence of outcomes as well (Nilson, 2010). What Fink’s attempts to do is have students learn to engage in learning synergistically, beginning with basic understanding and along the way tackle different outcomes from that basic knowledge. The environment best suited for this framework: post-graduate level scholarship; alert, advanced students can certainly succeed through interactive scholarship.

The positive aspect to Fink’s Framework is that it not only works well with a wide variety of fields and disciplines, but also that it can be implemented on face-to-face levels or utilizing distance learning. The down side of Fink’s is that not every student will understand that they do need to strengthen their learning skills because they lack sufficient motivation.


As mentioned in the introduction, the quality of the learning experience for college students is related to the quality of thinking and preparation that goes into the courses in which the students are expected to excel. Failure on the part of instructors to construct appropriately challenging and relevant frameworks can lead to a less fertile environment for student learning. And that, in turn, can ultimately lead to instruction with little meaning, or, in other words, a spinning of academic wheels.

Works Cited

Lattuca, L.R., and Stark, J.S. (2011). Shaping the College Curriculum: Academic Plans in Context. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Nilson, L.B. (2010). Teaching at its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College

Instructors. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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