Focus Area Sequence

QTII has sequenced our focus areas in a specific order for definite reasons. Those reasons are discussed in the paper below.

The Ordinal Nature of QTII
Effective Teaching Focus Areas

by David P. Miller
President, QTII

     This paper addresses the focus areas a teacher should master to become more effective, and the sequence in which these areas should be addressed to achieve maximum improvement in teaching effectiveness.

     The focus areas, in order, are Objective-based Planning, Teaching, and Assessment, Planning and Teaching for Maximized Affective Development, Designing Course and School Curricula for Maximum Accomplishment, Counseling and Academic Advising, and Textbook Selection and Authoring. Not all instructors will need to work in all areas, but learning effective competencies in all areas will help all aspects of teaching.

     In the following paragraphs, we address each area, briefly describing what it is, why it's important, and why it has been placed in its ordinal position in the sequence.

1.  Objective-based PTA.  Students always perform better when they know what's expected of them. The best way to let them know is to give them well-written and well-designed objectives.

PLANNING: During the planning phase of any course, you will determine the precise topics the students are to learn, the order in which they learn them, and how well they are to learn each one, stated as a specific level of learning.

TEACHING: The actual teaching of a particular topic will be much more successful, all other factors being equal, when (a) the teacher has a clearly defined lesson objective; (b) the students have a clear picture of what they are to learn; (c) the subject material builds appropriately on what the student already knows; and (d) the developmental demands on the student take into account the horizontal decalage and internalization needs of all learners. Objective-based teaching incorporates all these considerations.

ASSESSMENTS: The three primary purposes of assessments are (a) to determine teaching effectiveness; (b) to provide feedback to the students as to how well they are doing in the course; and (c) to provide a basis for assigning grades. Assessments that are not based on clearly stated objectives are of questionable validity. Without stated objectives, you will be unable to accurately determine the effectiveness of your teaching, the feedback the students receive will be tenuous and unfocused, and the grades you assign could be based on non-scientific measures. Objective-based assessments are critical to effective teaching. 

Why This Is First. A teacher has control or influence over many things that impact teaching effectiveness. The area of planning, teaching, and assessments of a course is the one area over which a teacher has direct and immediate control, and therefore it is the one area in which changes will have immediate impact. Additionally, this area is mentioned by a number of scholars as being the number one area that needs improvement to have the greatest positive impact on teaching effectiveness. Consequently, Objective-based Planning, Teaching, and Assessment occupies the top position in QTII's improvement of teaching effectiveness sequence of focus areas.

2.  Affective Development.  This area addresses student attitudes, and what teachers can do to bring students to higher levels in the Affective Development Taxonomy. This is arguably the most important topic for student learning, since students with the proper attitude can learn effectively in the face of abysmal teaching. However, comparatively little research has been done to scientifically determine methods to improve teaching effectiveness in the Affective Domain. Just as in the cognitive domain, one cannot directly observe affective development, but can observe only a person's behavior that indicates such development.

Why This Is Second. Because of the critical importance of this area, but also because of the difficulty in guiding and assessing development therein, Affective Development is second in the QTII improvement of teaching effectiveness sequence.

3.  Curriculum. The third area of QTII focus for improving teaching effectiveness is curriculum. Essentially, this means taking a very close look at what each course is teaching and making sure that what's being taught is what needs to be taught. There are four areas of focus in curriculum in higher education: career relevance, degree relevance, course sequencing, and course topics. Many of these areas are also applicable outside the area of higher education; which ones are applicable depend on the venue of the education. 

Career relevance is an indicator of how well a given degree is relevant to its intended career field.

Degree relevance is a measure of how well all courses required for a degree are relevant to that degree.

Course sequencing is a measure of how well the courses in a particular series follow in sequence of connectivity and continuity.

Course topics relate to how well the scheduled topics for a particular course, with appropriate consideration for target levels of learning required, starting knowledge level of students, and the horizontal decalage, or time required to internalize the achieved learning. 

This topic area covers in depth a subject touched on in the first and last steps of the Object-based PTA model.

Why This Is Third. This area of focus falls third in the sequence because of its relative importance, the efforts required to accomplish improvements in this area, and the applicability of this topic to individual teachers as opposed to entire departments. 

4.  Counseling and Academic Advising. The fourth area of focus for improving learning effectiveness (note the difference from teaching effectiveness) is one that has less to do with direct teaching and more to do with improving student learning. Although the title of this topic is Counseling and Academic Advising, a great deal of the focus of this topic is affective in nature, with the rest being a focus on becoming effective at academic advising. One of the factors critical to the success of a great number of students is for them to know that someone at the school actually cares about them and their success. This topic focuses on how instructors- assigned- to- be- advisors can move away from the type person who tells students which squares they need to fill and move towards being a counselor who advises students how to be successful. This focus area involves two distinct skillsets (academic advising and counseling), and the appropriate level of affective development by the teacher.

Why This Is Fourth. This is QTII's fourth priority because it is essential to improving student learning, even though it is probably the most difficult for individual teachers to learn and to implement.

5. Textbook Authoring and Selection. Textbooks are one of the most important tools in teaching and learning, but a textbook that is not properly done can be more hindrance than help. This focus area is intended to educate teachers in what to look for when selecting a textbook for a course, to ensure the best teaching effectiveness from that book. Besides defining characteristics to seek in a textbook, this focus area simultaneously defines those same characteristics as areas of focus when writing a textbook.

Summary: The focus areas of QTII are arranged in a distinct sequence, as indicated, for the reasons given. This document is accurate as of the date of writing, but is intended to be dynamic in nature, changing as we develop new perspectives and consider additional research. We welcome inputs and suggestions for improving this document and its consequent philosophy.

        QTII -- Establishing, Teaching, and Certifying Standards for Effective Teaching