Defense Paper

This unit, consisting of 4 lessons, is the first of a 3 part student leadership series.   Students are primarily non-traditional college students with a wide variety of college readiness skills ranging from multiple high-risk factors to being sophisticated learners.   Participation is voluntary with no credit or grade associated with completion.   The unit is intended to be open-entry with 1 – 10 students entering and proceeding at their own pace over the course of a 15 week semester. Both the voluntary and open-entry aspects of this unit present pedagogical challenges.

Motivation generally created by earning credit and grades was absent due to the voluntary nature of the course, requiring alternate motivational strategy. The need was met by incorporating aspects from the motivational theories of flow and self-determination.

Consistent with flow theory, as described by Gutierrez (2014), I made a particular effort to state clear objectives with each lesson and ensure presentation of instruction, task, and deliverables are consistent between lessons and free of extraneous ‘noise’ so students can quickly identify the tasks and assignments for each lesson.   With a heavy reliance on triggering intrinsic motivation, the unit begins with having the student identify things they are good at. This strategy meets Deci and Ryan’s self determination theory (SDT) component of competence.   The unit concludes by giving students the autonomy to choose their own project.

Assessment for this unit is based on student self-reflection on the learning process as evidenced in journal entries and concept maps. Students are asked to interact with the content and then reflect on the learning process and their personal values in relation to the content.   Journal entry prompts ask students to think critically about social issues as interpreted through the lens of their own values.

As an open entry opportunity, there will be no student cohort to interact with.   Students are asked to converse with friends and family in this unit and will need to begin interviews with social service agencies in the next unit.   Feedback at this point is instructor based and conversational in tone, provided in written form.   Feedback can come at the end of each lesson, but I predict more opportunities for questions and feedback to arise during the unit.   Because of the individualized and very personal nature of the feedback, I am counting on it to be relationship building, providing relatedness, the third leg of SDT.

The unit also draws on both cognitive and constructivist learning theory.   Students are asked to participate directly in a guided self assessment and make meaning (cognitive theory) of the results by seeking the impressions of people that know them well. They are introduced to the topic of social change first by definition, then by real life example and then once competence is built, by analyzing current services and creating plans for new programs that they will execute in the next lesson.   As they develop the knowledge and skills they interact on deeper and more individual levels with the content (constructivist).

Ultimately, I hope the combination of early success, supportive and relationship building feedback and autonomy in project choice will keep students engaged and moving forward in the process.


Gutierrez, K. (2014). Designing for motivation: Three theories eCampus designers can use. Retrieved from

2 thoughts on “Defense Paper

  1. Kim – I’m going to respond to your unit and your paper here in one place. Seems easier. As for being overwhelmed, well, YEAH!

    Your unit is great and I’m glad you got yours up before mine because I took a few cues from you. I love having an opening introduction page / splash screen. I really feel like my unit benefited from that greatly and I stole that from you so it goes to show that yours is really useful! I think that visually your unit turned out very usable. What I mean is that the text changes sizes appropriately, it’s easy to navigate to media like your videos and you haven’t mucked the unit up with lots of text getting in the way of activities.

    I don’t really have much to say about content – it was great when it was a draft and is cool here too. I am going to take the Clifton Strengths Finder and see just where I fall! One thing that I would recommend when you actually use this is to have each lesson link to the one following it. You made your unit in WordPress, right? Sometimes that little navigational tree on the right of the screen can be difficult to see so having links in each lesson, just like you do on the splash page, might be useful.

    The open-entry / no credit combination is rough. Online classes with no cohort can encourage lethargy…one thing you could do later on is have a product (or “deliverable”) that students from throughout time can see. Like a YouTube video that students create, for example. That might be a lot of work for a no-credit class, but it’s certainly a way to encourage “interaction” with students that might be worth investigating.

    Overall, very nice! It’s been fascinating to see everyone’s units grow over the course of this semester.

  2. Hi Kim,

    Congratulations! You’ve clearly put a tremendous amount of effort into this and it clearly shows. The result is something to be proud of.

    Your accompanying paper identifying your reasoning and defending your strategies correctly identifies some of what I think are your greatest challenges. The self-paced nature of your curriculum and a lack of a unified start date for your cohort will mean more effort for you in terms of feedback and assessment and engagement will remain something of a challenge. You will be solely responsible for guiding students through iterative feedback and revision cycles.

    If I were going to suggest additions to your final product, it would include more opportunities for revision. You already have several nice reflection opportunities. Finding a way to incorporate your feedback, or that of a community, (friends, family, co-workers, fellow students) someone to challenge their understanding, that would be valuable, I think.

    However, sometimes we have to play with the cards we’ve been dealt. Here, I think you work to build a plan as accommodating as possible for the situational factors you are facing.

    Lastly, I really am fond of your presentation. The website sketch is nearly ready for publication. A bit of polishing for accessibility with headings or titles would be helpful, or maybe some graphics – but those fall outside the purview of this assignment.

    Again, very well done! Congratulations!


Leave a Reply