Idea-based Learning

Idea-based Learning

A Course Design Process to Promote Conceptual Understanding

Book - 2011
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Stylus Pub
Synthesizing the best current thinking about learning, course design, and promoting student achievement, this is a guide to developing college instruction that has clear purpose, is well integrated into the curriculum, and improves student learning in predictable and measurable ways.

The process involves developing a transparent course blueprint, focused on a limited number of key concepts and ideas, related tasks, and corresponding performance criteria; as well as on frequent practice opportunities, and early identification of potential learning barriers.

Idea-based Learning takes as its point of departure the big conceptual ideas of a discipline that give structure and unity to a course and even to the curriculum, as opposed to a focus on content that can lead to teaching sequences of loosely-related topics; and aligns with notions of student-centered and outcomes-based learning environments.

Adopting a backwards design model, it begins with three parallel processes: first, identifying the material that is crucial for conceptual understanding; second, articulating a clear rationale for how to choose learning outcomes based on student needs and intellectual readiness; and finally, aligning the learning outcomes with the instructional requirements of the authentic performance tasks.

The resulting syllabi ensure cohesion between sections of the same course as well as between courses within a whole curriculum, assuring the progressive development of students’ skills and knowledge.

Key elements of IBL include:
* Helping students see the big picture
* Building courses around one or more authentic performance tasks that illuminate the core concepts of the discipline
* Clearly identifying performance criteria for all tasks
* Incorporating practice in the competencies that are deemed important for students’ success
* By placing the onus of learning on the student, liberating faculty to take on the role of learning coaches
* Designing tasks that help students unlearn simplistic ideas and replace them with improved understandings

Edmund Hansen expertly guides the reader through the steps of the process, providing examples along the way, and concluding with a sample course design document and syllabus that illustrate the principles he propounds.

Book News
Hansen (teaching and learning, Northeastern Illinois U.) offers college professors guidance in developing instruction that has a clear purpose, is well-situated in the curriculum, and improves student learning in measurable ways. He focuses on idea-based course design, showing how it is best for low-stress teaching and learning, and is guided by big conceptual ideas. He explains that idea-based learning is focused on key ideas and meaningful tasks, detailed performance criteria, practice opportunities, and identification of learning barriers. He outlines a backward course-design model that entails learning outcomes that are derived from big ideas and enduring understandings and are connected with essential questions and guiding concepts, and details how to remove barriers to critical thinking, articulate a clear rationale for choosing outcomes based on student needs and intellectual readiness, align outcomes with instructional requirements, and evaluate the quality of work through practical tasks and rubrics. Hansen also discusses assignment-centered instruction, the characteristics of an authentic performance task, the elements of course design documents, and implementing course design with online technology. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Sterling, Va. : Stylus, 2011
ISBN: 9781579226145
Characteristics: xiv, 209 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Idea based learning


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