Course Design Institute

Experience & Expectations


Our Course Design Institute is an intensive, multi-day, hands-on seminar in which instructors (re)design courses to inspire intellectual curiosity and motivation and create transformative learning experiences for their students. CDI is designed to expand participants' pedagogical knowledge, foster personal and professional growth within a mutually supportive teaching community, and increase participants’ satisfaction with their teaching experiences.

Participants are introduced to a variety of design principles and evidence-based pedagogical practices, and encouraged to adapt these to suit their identities and teaching contexts. CDI’s design principles are grounded in scholarly literature from many fields, particularly 1) backwards, integrated, and learner-centered course design; 2) the science of learning; and 3) inclusive and equitable pedagogies.

These broad goals manifest in three concrete outcomes for participants. During CDI, participants will:

  1. Design or redesign a course built on learner-centered, equitable, and inclusive design principles;

  2. Develop a final or near-final syllabus that reflects these principles;

  3. Apply research-based teaching and learning principles to their future course design and pedagogical practices.

Our Foundational Values

CDI’s design, learning goals, and its facilitators' practices are motivated by the following set of values. Many of these values serve as a foundation not only for CDI, but also for other CTE programs—and for equitable, justice-oriented classroom practices in general. We believe that:

  1. Instructors care deeply about student learning and well-being and want to be the best educators they can be.

  2. Teaching and learning do not happen in a vacuum; UVA instructors must attend to the contexts of our environment(s) and the current moment.

  3. Effective, high-quality course design and teaching are fundamentally anti-oppressive, anti-bias, and anti-racist.

  4. Effective, high-quality teaching will work to disrupt and address the bias within a given discipline.

  5. Course design and teaching practices will vary with instructors’ identities, backgrounds, disciplines, professional statuses, and teaching contexts. 

  6. Learning is a continuous, non-linear process of exploration. In recognition, we advocate for course design and teaching practices that embrace imperfection, nuance, complexity and iterative development.

  7. A goal of all effective course design is to eliminate barriers to student learning.

Our Process

During CDI, an interdisciplinary group of instructors spends five days designing or substantially redesigning courses to promote significant, long-term learning. As a participant, you will explore learner-centered design principles in a large group setting and then work on your individual course design in a small, discipline- or pedagogy-focused learning team. Your learning team, led by an experienced facilitator, will provide you with opportunities for brainstorming, individualized feedback, and ongoing support. You are also invited to consult one-on-one with Institute faculty and student consultants throughout the week.

As you design your course, you'll be guided by a taxonomy of significant learning, the process of backward and integrated design, and empirical research on student motivation and educative assessment.

This course design strategy offers you a framework for considering the whole learner, making her the focus of the learning environment. It provides you with guidance for thinking about the types of knowledge and skills you want students to learn and how students might apply and integrate that knowledge. It prompts you to think about other dimensions of learning: how you might inspire students to care about that knowledge and what students might learn about themselves, others, and their own learning. And, it asks you to carefully consider questions such as this: How do I assess whether I and my students meet the course goals?

What Facilitators Do

In order to support participants’ learning, CDI presenters and facilitators commit themselves to the following practices. We will:

  1. Intentionally model learner-centered, inclusive, equitable, and evidence-based pedagogies;

  2. Provide growth-oriented feedback on participants’ work;

  3. Encourage participants to learn from each other; 

  4. Honor participants’ disciplinary expertise, teaching experiences, and lived experiences;

  5. Employ a shared vocabulary of anti-racist, equitable practice and support participants in adopting the same;

  6. Situate ourselves as learners along with and from participants;

  7. Invite participants to position themselves as students, to better appreciate and empathize with students’ experiences;

  8. Adopt an ethos of humility in our facilitation and welcome questioning and critical feedback from participants;

  9. Commit to ongoing learning and practice, particularly in the areas of anti-racist and equitable pedagogy.

What Past Participants Say

What have past participants said about their experience in CDI?

Intense, demanding, but extremely productive. I worked harder and faster than I would have on my own. I also loved the environment—being surrounded by people who care about and love teaching was inspiring.

I emerged from the Institute having a much richer sense of the possibilities and the types of bonds that can be forged between my students and the subjects they study.

The institute gave me life! And it totally changed my approach to course design and teaching. 

In two words: [the CDI experience was] life-altering. This may seem overblown, but it is 100% true. I came in thinking I had a handle on my course, but realized very soon I needed to go back to the drawing board. The result is exponentially improved.

What have students said about their experience in CDI-designed courses?

This class has given me a completely different perception of the world around me. It has taught me a new way to view everything I encounter.

This class really made me think in ways I never thought I would have and opened my eyes to different kinds of learning that, gasp, one might even begin to call fun.

More about applying to CDI.

More about next steps once accepted into CDI.

More about a typical schedule for the week and options for parking and lodging.

More about our highly experienced facilitators.

Sample Syllabi

List of syllabi created during previous iterations of CDI.

List of the program's most commonly asked questions.