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New Instructors Navigate Curriculum

New Instructors Navigate Curriculum

“When you love your job, you want to pass on those skills to the next generation,” says Dan Zdrojewski, a Truck Driving Instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Zdrojewski and his fellow instructor Piotr Jelen both have over 20 years of experience in the trucking industry. Both are new instructors at MATC, and both were given the task of re-designing the Truck Driving curriculum at their college.

Closing the Expert/Teacher Gap

For many new instructors, there is a gap between being an expert and being able to teach that expertise to students. The gap can widen when you add the challenge of the instructional design process and curriculum management software. But Jelen and Zdrojewski were motivated. “We knew we wanted to update the existing curriculum. We wanted it to align more to the real life tasks people have in the trucking industry. Then we got a grant to do the work!” says Jelen.

All the pieces came together after they attended a WIDS training session at their college. Jelen says “Once we saw what we could do, we thought ‘This is pretty cool. Of course we should be updating and designing the curriculum in WIDS!’ We started from scratch and found it very easy to navigate.”

The eight-week Truck Driving program prepares students to pass the Wisconsin Commercial Driver’s License exam, which includes a written test and a three-part skills test (vehicle inspection, basic control skills and road test). “Of course we need to teach the required regulations,” says Zdrojewski. “But there is so much more we want to cover. We are adamant on safety. And we want students to have practice on things like hooking and unhooking a trailer. Studying from a book just isn’t enough.”

Nailing Course Outcomes

With WIDS, Jelen and Zdrojewski wrote performace-based competencies and defined the criteria for successful completion of each skill. WIDS also gave them an easy way to use those competencies to design learning plans and assessments. WIDS is designed to give instructors the “big picture” so they can see how the ending outcomes connect back to everything that comes before. “You can clearly see what you are working on,” says Jelen. “It’s easy to find things. The flow is great; one thing leads to another.”

For instructors who are new to curriculum development, WIDS offers prompts to ensure course outcomes are nailed. For example, a built-in tool helps instructors avoid vague outcomes by using only verbs that are measureable or observable. Learning plan creation prompts instructors to target specific competencies. And a database of learning and assessment activities speeds up the process of writing student assignments and assessments.

Jelen and Zdrojewski are looking forward to getting their new curriculum out to students. “There is a huge demand for truck drivers right now,” says Zdrojewski. Jelen adds, “More and more companies are pounding on our doors, asking for our graduates. That’s why it’s so important for our courses to reflect what students should actually be doing in the field. WIDS helps us with that!

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