Class Schedule and Place of Meetings

Info about Instructor & Office Hours
    Course Overview
    The core 5 questions
    Typical structure of classroom meetings and participation in class
    Participation in class Web discussions
    Reading Essays and Book Reviews
    Final evaluation project
    What I hope you will learn in the class
Feedback on the class
Estimated class workload per week   
Typical workload at home per week

Class Schedule

TIME OF CLASS: Wednesday, 5:30-8:30 pm PLACE: Room 201 McDowell Hall

First class meeting: February 10 (Wed.) Last class meeting: May 19 (Wed.)

Info about Instructor, Teaching Assistants, & Office Hours

INSTRUCTOR: Eugene Matusov, Ph. D.
For more info about the Instructor see Eugene Matusov's Home Web Page
Office: 206D Willard Hall; Phone: (302)-831-1266; e-mail:
Office hours: by appointment, Mondays

Course overview
I want to share my excitement with issues of cognition and instruction. The purpose of the seminar is to examine how understanding of what is cognition shapes instructional designs in formal education settings. Formal settings by their very nature create a tension and discontinuity between education and practice the education is aimed at. Teaching is a goal-directed activity that guided by our understanding of learning and thinking processes and principles.

I treat the class as a journey for all of us. The issues of cognition and instruction are open for debate in many fields of social studies. We will try to use different disciplines such as education, psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and philosophy to approach the issue. I hope that discussions of the issues associated with cognition and instruction will help your in your future research and educational practices.

My goal is to engage you in these debates and learn together with you. We will start the course with focusing on how cognition is portrayed in different conceptual frameworks, then we will examine theories of instruction and instructional design, finally, we discuss relations between school instructions in math, language art and natural sciences and these practices outside school.

I also want to engage you in a project of critical analysis of a specific instructional design to have research and practice focuses of our class. One of the available designs is my own undergraduate class for preservice teacher EDST390 "Instructional Strategies and Reflective Practices" that I’m currently teaching. The purpose of the semester-long project is to analyze instructional design and its underlining cognitive principles and assumption in order to learn how to design instructions on your own.

The philosophy of the class is to provide a safe learning environment for you. There will be no exams. We are going to discuss social, individual, cultural, institutional, cultural, economic, and political implications for different theories of cognition and instructional designs. The course is designed to encourage all participants (i.e., each student and the instructor) to engage in critical thinking and open discussions concerning issues of cognition and instruction.

I want to admit that I am conceptually biased toward a sociocultural approach to cognition and instruction, toward situated cognition, and toward activity theory. It does not mean that I expect you to embrace these approaches but it does mean that while discussing a variety of theoretical approaches, you will hear about these approaches a lot.

I expect each of us (i.e., you all and me) to participate as a responsible member of the class who is willing to contribute to one's own as well as others' learning. The course involves extensive discussions and small group activities based on the readings, instructor’s and students’ class presentations, and several films. Individuals and/or groups will work on and present projects during the semester.

I want to work hard to develop a community of learners in our class. I expect that we all make mistakes (including myself) so we all can learn from them. I will try to avoid punishing for your learning from doing mistakes. I am committed to making the class meaningful and to promoting a safe and supporting environment for the learning of all class members (including myself as your instructor). Many things are negotiable in the class except everyone's commitment to learning and meaningfulness.

The core 5 questions
We will examine the class topics using the following five guiding questions:

What is cognition? How does the answer of this question guide instructional designs?
Why is there focus on cognition and not other aspects of human activity in education?
Where is cognition located (e.g., in brain, in mind, in individual, in society, in culture, in history) and why does it matter? What are the cognitive principles of instruction in different subject areas?
How to teach students for the future that is unknown to the teacher?
What is the relationship between formal instruction and practice that this instruction is aimed at?

Typical structure of classroom meetings and participation in class
Active participation in class and web discussions and group activities is crucial for learning in this course. Class participation also includes playing active roles in creating a supportive atmosphere in which every participant's learning will be fostered. This involves both building on or disagreeing with arguments made by others.

I expect you to attend every class meeting. Feel free to discuss and share with me whatever problems emerge that can affect your participation in the class.

Red_Arrow.gif (871 bytes)Wendesday meetings

Typical weekly workload at home

Typical weekly workload at home will include:

Advice: try to distribute your workload across the week and not to do everything on the day of the deadline.

Participation in our class Web discussions
I expect you to read all the messages and contribute minimum of two messages per week, which can involve messages of various lengths on a subject initiated by you or replies to somebody else's messages or reading essays (excluding class announcements and replies to them). The Web discussion will be based on readings, your observations of EDST390 webtalks, class discussions, your questions, your past experiences, your comments, and my guiding questions. More than two postings are welcome.

Red_Arrow.gif (871 bytes)How to write web messages: Focus on interesting, personally relevant, and provocative ideas, challenging teaching dilemmas, questions, and information so your message is worth to read for the other class members (including me). Try to bring illustrating examples for your ideas. Your personal experience is always a good source for examples and interesting thoughts. Make the subject of your message as informative and attractive as possible (provocative subjects often attract readers’ attention).

Support other students by replying to their messages and responding to their replies on your own messages. In your reply, refer the original author by name (otherwise, if a big discussion emerges people may lose track to whom you refer) and quote or paraphrase the referred points from the original message (so people know with what you agree or disagree). If you are agree try to say why. If you are disagree with the original author try to be respectful by appreciating author’s position and by providing justification for your disagreement.

Your message is especially successful when it generates a discussion.

I know that some of you may feel uncomfortable exposing your thinking to the entire class – but students from my previous classes found that it was fun after a couple of weeks. Don't worry about spelling – think only about communicating your ideas. Nobody judges or grades your web contributions.

I expect you to read the readings indicated in  the reading list.I hope that the readings will help you to reflect on teaching practices.

The assigned readings consist of a textbook and assigned articles. Weekly readings will usually involve about 40-60 pages.

While reading the papers, I would like you to focus on how the readings relate to your life experience, your interests, and future career.

About twice in the semester I expect you to read a book and make a book review. You can check out the books in the University library or buy them (e.g., via to build your own library. If you can’t find books in library and don’t want to buy them, you may borrow them from me. My choice of the books has been based on judgements of my colleagues of most influential books and authors in the relevant fields. Please, try to read the assigned books in advanced and secure availability of the books in the library.

Reading Essays and Book Reviews
The purpose of reading essays is to engage in understanding and discussion of the assigned literature to see its relevance for your teaching practicum experience, reflection on teaching, and developing your teaching skills. You will write 1-single-page thought paper on the weekly readings on our class web.

When reading and discussing papers, please, try to focus on issues and problems relevant for (your) teaching rather than try to remember "facts" for an exam (there are no tests or exams in our class). You may find useful the following guiding questions:

You can use the questions as guidelines for writing your book reviews.

I believe that grading interferes with students’ learning. Grading punishes students for making mistakes and not meeting the teacher’s expectations. However, making mistakes is an important component of learning and should be safe. Since we have institutional requirements for grading, I want to provide my grading philosophy.

I expect all students who honestly put their efforts in their own and fellow student's learning to get "A." This involves timely fulfilling all the requirements (i.e., class participation, active working in small groups, reading assigned literature, weekly assignments, reading assignments, participation on the class web, active and responsible involvement in the group projects, and developing final paper on your interest) and having ownership for your own learning. I believe that you are the highest authority of your own learning. I promise to do as much as I can to meet your learning needs. The grades below "A" will be decided on an individual basis (e.g., significant exceeding minimal requirements gives extra credit). I'll try to let you know during the course, if you work becomes below "A" in my judgment and how you can improve the expected grade via a monthly progress report. I want to put you in control of your final grade as much as possible.

Warning.gif (151 bytes)Note: If you are really concerned about your grade at the end of the class, consider submitting me a draft of your individual final paper in advance for my feedback before publishing it on the web. If you decide to do that try to do it as early as possible.

The final grade will be based on fulfillment of all required assignments (i.e., the required number of web postings, reading essays and reviews, preparations of the teaching activities, mini-projects, class attendance) AND the quality of your final research paper. Substantial exceeding my requirements and expectations (e.g., more than 5 web posting per course) will provide extra credit.

Final evaluation project

As a part of the class, you will develop recommendations for me of how I should assess your learning in the class (e.g., final exam, portfolio assessment, final research paper, web project, and so on). You should also justify of why this method of assessment is best for you and other stakeholders in your teacher education. On the bases of your recommendations and justification and my own judgement, I will finalize your evaluation project and criteria for its grading.

Monthly Feedback on the class
In addition to the traditional University evaluation at the end of the class, I really want your regular feedback on the class so we can improve it down the road. So I want to ask you to fill out feedback survey forms several times during the course. The reports of the feedback will be prepared timely and published on our class Web. I also plan to discuss them in the class. You are welcome to send your questions, comments, and/or suggestions via e-mail or raise them during the class or office hours. I appreciate your help and partnership in running the class and making it comfortable and meaningful for every member.

Estimated class workload per week
Below is our rough estimation of students' workload per week (in hours) (I averaged time if work does not occur every week):

Type of students' engagement Time
Participating in Web discussions 2.0
Reading for the class (40-60 pages per week) 3.5
Writing weekly assignments, preparing for the final evaluation project (on "average") 2.0
Attending classes (twice a week) 2.5
Total: 10.0

Your monthly feedback will probably help us to correct some of these numbers.