UVU Family Studies Emphasis

The Family Studies Emphasis at UVU modified the process of teaching of FLE methodology to match these more active learning approaches and to include more high-impact practices. The change occurred in three separate ways:

  • 1. The Class—using meaningful, student-led assignments (HIP 1, 2, and 4) in the methodology course.
  • 2. The Certification—certifying students in a widely used family curriculum (HIP 1, 2, 4, and 6).
  • 3. The Experience—participating in the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) by teaching diverse families in a field-based setting of campus (HIP 3, 4, 5, and 6).

The Class

The FAMS 4500 FLE methods course is devoted to engaging students in the development, facilitation, and evaluation of a novel family life education curriculum (HIP 1). At first, students are often overwhelmed by the scope of this assignment; however, their fears are often assuaged as they see that smaller tasks are the building blocks to the larger assignment (Duncan & Goddard, 2011; Powell & Cassidy, 2007). Before students begin their assignment, however, they learn the importance of ethics in FLE. Consistent with the statutes of National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), a foundational component to the FAMS 4500 course includes the Family Life Educators Code of Ethics (Adams, Dollahite, Gilbert, & Keim, 1998).

Because collaborative learning can be beneficial to students as they grapple together over strategies, concepts, and learning to work in a group setting (Vazin & Reile, 2006), students form self-selected curriculum teams which usually consist of 3-4 students based on their interest in the topic (Sweet & Michaelsen, 2012). Then, teams are required to draft a Program Proposal and Problem Statement explaining why their chosen topic is important to individuals or families. Next, teams conduct a Needs Assessment. Team members collaborate to devise questions to glean the felt needs of the target population (Arcus, 1993); the assessment is given to at least ten individuals in the target audience. Further, students are required to interview at least one expert in their chosen topic to derive their populations’ ascribed needs (Arcus, 1993).

Based on their findings from the Needs Assessment, teams complete a Literature Review (Duncan & Goddard, 2011; Powell & Cassidy, 2007). Students submit a rough draft that is reviewed by the instructor, and given feedback (HIP 1). Teams are then asked to make the suggested changes and resubmit a second draft thereafter.

Once these important pieces are completed, teams are then asked to propose at least four sessions in their curriculum and to begin developing an Instructor’s Guide for their individual sessions. Each individual is required to develop one 90-minute session as part of their group’s curriculum. Teams are also required to develop a Marketing Plan which includes how they are going to advertise to their target audience, including the creation of advertisements.

Understandably, the development and presentation of a program can be daunting for many students who often do not have any experience teaching large groups. Therefore, one of the primary goals of the course is to immerse and train students in the art of effective presenting and teaching skills (Duncan & Goddard, 2011). To facilitate this process, four teaching assignments are distributed throughout the semester to allow high levels of faculty-student interaction (HIP 2) and to create a safe environment for performance feedback (HIP 4).

The first teaching assignment requires students to teach for 7-10 minutes on any subject of their choosing. This introductory teaching assignment provides a gentle and safe exposure to standing up in front of a large group. Next, teams present a small portion of an established curriculum for 15-20 minutes. This presentation allows students to not only gain experience with a detailed instructors guide, engaging an audience, and following a pre-designed established program, but also exposes them to teaching as a group.

Next, teams teach the first 30-40 minutes of their own program in class (HIP 2). This will also be the first time that the instructor and their peers give detailed and specific feedback to the teams presenting (HIP 4). Finally, teams are required to present one entire 90-minute session from their program in front of their peers as well as the instructor. After they present, teams are again given both verbal and written feedback (HIP 2, 4). Students often report that they are able to see their teaching abilities improve over the semester, and they learn the strengths of their design. This feedback allows them to fix any problem areas in their teaching or curriculum.

Finally, teams are required to teach one session of their curriculum to a live audience in a public setting (HIP 1, 3, 4, and 5). This part of the assigned project allows students to experience contact with a more diverse population who may be different than themselves. Students are allowed to teach their program wherever they would like. Audience members are recruited via on-campus signs, advertisement, and student social media. Finally, students are asked to complete a formative evaluation that is based on their own observations as well as the evaluations provided by the program participants.

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