Use the self-assessment guides and syllabus rubrics below to evaluate and revise your course plan.
Welcome! At this site, you will find information to help you apply evidence-based teaching practices to create or revise course plans with an eye toward 1) fostering equitable and effective learning for your students and 2) building your capacity (and that of your instructional team) to design flexible activities and assessments suitable for any teaching modality. For help using these resources, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the tabs at the top of the page to explore the following sections:
- Course Design Frameworks — A short introduction to key evidence-based frameworks for course design.
- Templates & Design Tools — Syllabus templates as well as course mapping tools and rubrics for evaluating an existing course plan (includes sample UCLA policy language about areas such as course accommodations and academic integrity).
- Learning Objectives — A deeper dive into crafting strong, transparent objectives to guide student learning.
- Assessing Learning — Resources to help align assignments with objectives to optimize learning.
- Student Engagement — Resources to help integrate active and collaborative learning opportunities into courses to increase engagement and enhance learning.
- Working with TAs — Resources to help teams of instructors and TAs work together effectively.
- Giving & Getting Feedback — Resources about giving feedback on student work and structuring student peer review and self-reflection activities, as well as approaches to gathering and using feedback from students and fellow instructors regarding your teaching.
There are many evidence-based frameworks for course design. The approaches linked below share an emphasis on student-centered learning and inclusive teaching practices Research demonstrates that these approaches help improve academic performance and foster a more equitable learning environment. Click on the bolded hyperlinks below to explore key resources that introduce each of these approaches in more detail.
- Backward design is a course development process that requires you to begin with the objectives you want your students to achieve by the end of the course. These objectives then inform the types of assessment you design to determine whether intended learning goals have been met, and the types of learning activities you assign to prepare students to meet those goals.
- Culturally responsive & sustaining pedagogies center the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and identities of students as assets for the learning of all.
- Transparency in Learning & Teaching (TILT) sees transparency as a key equity strategy that empowers students by promoting their conscious understanding of how they learn.
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL) aims to increase accessibility and engagement for all students by committing to offer multiple means of 1) engagement, 2) representation, and 3) action/expression.
Contact CAT to schedule a one-on-one consultation to identify the course design approaches that will be most authentic and meaningful for your specific discipline and teaching context–or join us for one of our course design workshops!
Explore the video gallery below to hear UCLA faculty reflect on their experiences designing (and redesigning) courses to improve learning outcomes and enhance equity. A short bibliography below the video gallery cites just a few of the many research studies documenting how committing to transparent, equity-minded course design benefits both students and instructors. Several of these studies were authored right here at UCLA!
Looking for videos featuring UCLA graduate students reflecting on course design?
Check out recordings from the Creating Connections annual conference, hosted by students completing UCLA’s Graduate Certificate in Writing Pedagogy. To learn more about opportunities for UCLA graduate students to design and teach their own courses, visit this page of the CAT website.
Below, you will find just a small sample of studies authored by UCLA researchers related to course design and student learning outcomes.
- Choe, Ronny C., Zorica Scuric, Ethan Eshkol, Sean Cruser, Ava Arndt, Robert Cox, Shannon P. Toma, et al. “Student Satisfaction and Learning Outcomes in Asynchronous Online Lecture Videos.” CBE—Life Sciences Education 18, no. 4 (December 1, 2019): ar55. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.18-08-0171.
- Lee, Christopher J., Brit Toven-Lindsey, Casey Shapiro, Michael Soh, Sepideh Mazrouee, Marc Levis-Fitzgerald, and Erin R. Sanders. “Error-Discovery Learning Boosts Student Engagement and Performance, While Reducing Student Attrition in a Bioinformatics Course.” Edited by Erin L. Dolan. CBE—Life Sciences Education 17, no. 3 (September 2018): ar40. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.17-04-0061.
- O’Leary, Erin Sanders, Casey Shapiro, Shannon Toma, Hannah Whang Sayson, Marc Levis-Fitzgerald, Tracy Johnson, and Victoria L. Sork. “Creating Inclusive Classrooms by Engaging STEM Faculty in Culturally Responsive Teaching Workshops.” International Journal of STEM Education 7, no. 1 (July 1, 2020): 32. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-020-00230-7.
- Pan, Steven C., Faria Sana, Joshua Samani, James Cooke, and Joseph A. Kim. “Learning from Errors: Students’ and Instructors’ Practices, Attitudes, and Beliefs.” Memory 28, no. 9 (October 20, 2020): 1105–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2020.1815790.
- Paris, Django and H. Samy Alim, eds. Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World. New York: Teachers College Press, 2017.
Explore the course design tools below for assistance developing a syllabus or course plan from scratch, and for help updating an existing course.
Looking for recommended language for key course policies? Explore below.
UCLA is a community of scholars. In this community, all members including faculty, staff and students alike are responsible for maintaining standards of academic honesty. As a student and member of the University community, you are here to get an education and are, therefore, expected to demonstrate integrity in your academic endeavors. You are evaluated on your own merits. Cheating, plagiarism, collaborative work, multiple submissions without the permission of the professor, or other kinds of academic dishonesty are considered unacceptable behavior and will result in formal disciplinary proceedings usually resulting in suspension or dismissal.
Additional information can be found on the website for the Office of the Dean of Students: https://deanofstudents.ucla.edu/student-conduct-code
Remember: There are many alternatives to academic dishonesty!
- Seek out help – meet with your TA or professor, ask if there is special tutoring available.
- Drop the course – can you take it next quarter when you might feel more prepared and less pressured?
- Ask for an extension – if you explain your situation to your TA or Professor, they might grant you an extended deadline.
- See a counselor at Student Psychological Services, and/or your school, college or department – UCLA has many resources for students who are feeling the stresses of academic and personal pressures.
Looking for additional information for instructors from the Dean of Students office? Check out the following:
Suggested syllabus insert (a longer version of the text above)
Accessibility & Accommodations
Suggested syllabus text from UCLA’s Center for Accessible Education:
If you are already registered with the Center for Accessible Education (CAE), please request your Letter of Accommodation in the Student Portal. If you are seeking registration with the CAE, please submit your request for accommodations via the CAE website. Students with disabilities requiring academic accommodations should submit their request for accommodations as soon as possible, as it may take up to two weeks to review the request. For more information, please visit the CAE website (www.cae.ucla.edu), visit the CAE at A255 Murphy Hall, or contact us by phone at (310) 825-1501.
NOTE: Some instructors choose to incorporate accessibility into a broader statement framed through the lens of equity and inclusion. See below for an example. However, if you choose to modify the language above, please be sure to name the Center for Accessible Education and provide information about how students can reach out for support.
Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging
I, as your instructor, value equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). I view the diversity that students bring to this class as a strength, benefit, and resource. I have tried to present materials and activities that reflect this goal. Some examples of diversity I have in mind are religion, nationality, gender identity, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and their intersections. I hope that you will communicate with me or your TA if you experience anything in this course that does not support an inclusive environment, and you can also report any incidents you may witness or experience on campus to the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion on their website.
Looking for help developing community agreements for your course? Check out this guide developed by CAT and UCLA Intergroup Dialogue!
As a land grant institution, UCLA acknowledges our presence on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples. Visit this website for up-to-date land acknowledgment text to include in your syllabus.
We invite you to learn more about the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples, about land acknowledgment, and about additional actions that can support the ongoing work of decolonizing relationships with people and place using the links below. This resource list is not exhaustive.
- Native American and Indigenous Peoples FAQs from UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Supportive Services for Students
UCLA provides many resources to support students facing challenges, whether inside or outside the classroom. UCLA’s Student Affairs Guidebook gathers key resources for graduate and undergraduate students: https://www.studentaffairs.ucla.edu/guidebook. Students can always consult the Student Care Managers program website for information about supportive services, including information about confidential one-on-one consultation: http://www.studentincrisis.ucla.edu/Who-can-Help. If you need to request an academic accommodation based on a documented disability affecting your work in this course, please contact the Center for Accessible Education as soon as possible. You can learn more about CAE services by exploring their website at http://www.cae.ucla.edu.
Ensuring a safer campus depends on each of us following the latest UCLA health and safety guidelines. While campus policies must be modified to address changing local, state, and national orders and guidance, the most current information is available at covid-19.ucla.edu. For sample text instructors can paste into course syllabi, click here.
Protecting Privacy & Data During Remote Working & Using Zoom
Visit this website from the UCLA Administrative Vice Chancellor’s Office for the most up-to-date information about privacy policies.
What is a learning objective?
A learning objective is a specific, measurable action that a learner is able to do after receiving instruction. For example:
By the end of this tutorial, you will be able to:
1) define what a learning objective is and why it is important; and
2) write your own learning objectives using strong, observable action verbs.
The infographic below describes the key elements of strong, transparent learning objectives.
Why are learning objectives important for effective course design?
Clearly articulating course-level learning objectives in a course syllabus–and linking those broad goals with objectives for individual assignments and lessons–helps students align their performance with course expectations and provides a structure that makes it easier for instructors to offer feedback targeted toward student growth. In the video below, UCLA Physics & Astronomy professor Joshua Samani reflects on what makes strong, transparent learning objectives “The Most Powerful Tool for Instructional Design.”
As you work to develop or revise learning objectives for your course, you may find it helpful to explore some of the many evidence-based frameworks for aligning course objectives with different levels of learning and dimensions of human development, including Bloom’s Taxonomy and Fink’s Taxonomy. It may also be helpful to review this chart from the University of Arkansas, which suggests action verbs appropriate for different levels and dimensions of learning. Additional resources can be found below.
- CAT Backward Design & Learning Objective Guide
- “The Course Design Triangle” from Wiley Education Services
- “Foundations in Learner-Centered Design” mini-course from the UCLA Library’s Writing Instruction & Research Education Team (WI+RE)
- Communicating Course Goals teaching guide from the UCLA Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS)
- UCLA Guide to Establishing Student Learning Objectives for Courses for WASC accreditation
Why do instructors assess student learning?
We assess student learning in order to determine the extent to which students are developing the desired knowledge and skills for a particular course or lesson, and–by extension–whether our instruction is effective in supporting student learning. Assessment can take the form of high-stakes assignments (such as midterm and final exams or term papers and projects) as well as low-stakes activities (such as quizzes, minute papers, or in-class discussions and presentations). Any class assignment, whether graded or ungraded, can serve as a form of assessment as long as it provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning and receive feedback on how well their performance aligns with objectives.
Below, you will find featured resources from UCLA to support you in designing and implementing learning assessments for your courses, followed by a list of supplemental resources from other institutions recommended by CAT staff. Contact CAT to schedule a one-on-one consultation to identify the assessment approaches that will be most authentic and meaningful for your specific discipline and teaching context–or join us for one of our workshops!
Featured UCLA Resources
Click to explore key considerations for equity, effectiveness, managing grading load, and more.
Click to explore strategies for integrating writing and research in courses across the disciplines.
Click to explore quick and practical research and writing tutorials, collaboratively designed by students at UCLA.
Click to explore assessment strategies and equitable grading practices (STEM focus but relevant to all instructors).
Click to explore UCLA’s campus-wide framework for assessing learning at three levels: student, course, and program.
Click to explore how UCLA approaches gathering “evidence of student learning” for WASC accreditation.
Featured UCLA Webinars & Panel Discussions
Featured Resources Beyond UCLA
What are the benefits of incorporating active and collaborative learning into college courses?
A growing body of research demonstrates that participating in active and collaborative learning increases student engagement and improves course effectiveness and outcomes for all learners. Research also shows that such practices often improve retention, narrow achievement gaps for historically marginalized student populations, and help create learning environments that are more inclusive and accessible for all students.
This section of our website gathers key resources from CAT and our campus partners as well as peer institutions to help you foster student engagement in ways that are authentic and meaningful for your specific discipline and teaching context. A short bibliography at the bottom of the page provides more information about research studies documenting the benefits of active and collaborative learning.
Featured UCLA Resources
Click to view the recording and resources from this webinar focused on technology-enhanced instruction and remote teaching.
Click to view this resource website from CEILS, including videos of active learning techniques in action.
Click to view this guide that introduces the pedagogy behind polling and compares popular polling tools.
Click to learn more about teaching with discussion forums, Slack, Campuswire, and more.
Featured Resources Beyond UCLA
Click to explore this self-paced module on active learning from Queen’s University.
Click to explore this guide from Carnegie Mellon University about developing, managing, and assessing group projects.
Click to explore this resource guide from Pedagogy in Action based at Carleton College.
Click to explore this resource guide from Louisiana State University featuring active learning strategies suitable for all modalities of instruction.
- Freeman, Scott, Sarah L. Eddy, Miles McDonough, Michelle K. Smith, Nnadozie Okoroafor, Hannah Jordt, and Mary Pat Wenderoth. “Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 23 (June 10, 2014): 8410–15. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319030111.
- Gin, Logan E., Frank A. Guerrero, Katelyn M. Cooper, and Sara E. Brownell. “Is Active Learning Accessible? Exploring the Process of Providing Accommodations to Students with Disabilities.” Edited by Cynthia Brame. CBE—Life Sciences Education 19, no. 4 (December 2020): es12. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.20-03-0049.
- Harris, Breanna N., Pumtiwitt C. McCarthy, April M. Wright, Heidi Schutz, Kate S. Boersma, Stephanie L. Shepherd, Lathiena A. Manning, Jessica L. Malisch, and Roni M. Ellington. “From Panic to Pedagogy: Using Online Active Learning to Promote Inclusive Instruction in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Courses and Beyond.” Ecology and Evolution 10, no. 22 (November 2020): 12581–612. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6915.
- Mello, David, and Colleen Less. “Effectiveness of Active Learning in the Arts and Sciences.” Humanities Department Faculty Publications & Research, January 1, 2013. https://scholarsarchive.jwu.edu/humanities_fac/45.
- Theobald, Elli J., Mariah J. Hill, Elisa Tran, Sweta Agrawal, E. Nicole Arroyo, Shawn Behling, Nyasha Chambwe, et al. “Active Learning Narrows Achievement Gaps for Underrepresented Students in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117, no. 12 (March 24, 2020): 6476–83. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1916903117.
- “Transforming Teaching Through Active Learning: Case Studies from the Social Sciences | Faculty Resource Network.” Accessed November 22, 2021. https://facultyresourcenetwork.org/publications/transforming-teaching-through-active-learning/transforming-teaching-through-active-learning-case-studies-from-the-social-sciences/.
- Waitkus, Jane. “Active Learning In Humanities Courses: Helping Students To Think Critically.” Journal of College Teaching & Learning (TLC) 3, no. 10 (October 1, 2006). https://doi.org/10.19030/tlc.v3i10.1671.
Explore the resources below to learn about strategies for effectively working with Teaching Assistants (TAs) to help improve student learning in your classes while also fostering the professional growth and development of your graduate student TAs.
Featured Resources for Faculty/TA Teams
Click to view/download a guide to developing shared expectations among members of your teaching team.
Click to view/download a checklist for fostering effective communication among members of your teaching team.
Click to view the recording and resources from this webinar.
Click to view the recording and resources from this webinar.
Key Resources to Share with Your TAs
Click to visit CAT’s Graduate Programs website.
Click to visit a website dedicated to gathering campus-wide opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral scholars to further their teaching and learning scholarship.
Click to learn more about CIRTL@UCLA and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a nation-wide online network of 40+ universities that seek to enhance excellence in teaching and learning.
Numerous research studies document the crucial role that feedback plays in fostering a growth mindset, as well as motivating long-term learning gains for students and professional growth for instructors. Explore the resources below to learn more about giving feedback on student work and structuring student peer review and self-reflection activities, and about approaches to gathering and using feedback from students and peers about your teaching.