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The Course of a Course

In my experience courses tend to follow a pattern, in terms of morale and performance (which tend to go together). In general terms, Tuckman and Jensen's model offers an account of this, but there are specific characteristics of a course they do not touch on. So here is my model, after some caveats:

  • This ain't research: it is more like folk wisdom. I don't know of any research on this, and it is probably rather difficult to do. This model does however seem to ring bells with colleagues and practising teachers/lecturers/ tutors in many areas of education and training. So don't just accept it— treat it critically.
  • Above all do not let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is just:
    • A list of things to look out for, if they happen.
    • A reassurance that although some things need active intervention, they are normal, and not an indication of your inadequacy as a teacher.

The model is recursive (wheels within wheels). It operates at several time-scales at once, with variations. So it seems to apply to one-day courses and three-year programmes, and to semester-long modules in between: more than that, it applies at all these and other time-scales simultaneously.

Important characteristics of a course group are that its duration is known from the start, and that apart from drop-outs, its composition is relatively stable. Some groups, of course, are so large and anonymous that it is hard to detect these patterns; but individuals or sub-groups may well represent them on behalf of the whole.

  • The convention is of course that red stands for danger.
  • The width of the columns in no way represents the duration of the phenomenon.
  • The model has to be laid out horizontally, so does not fit on this web page, but can be viewed or downloaded as a PDF.

This is an archived copy of Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching [On-line: UK] Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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