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Course Design & Delivery

The course design process is a systematic, iterative, and evidence-based approach to developing or revising a course by aligning course objectives, teaching strategies, assessments, and course materials to reach learning outcomes and create a student-centered environment.


Whether you are preparing to teach a course for the first time, updating an existing course, or even developing a lesson plan, it can be helpful to start the process by asking yourself three questions:

  1. What do you want students to learn or be able to do by the end of your course, lesson, or unit?
  2. How will you determine if they have accomplished those goals?
  3. What teaching approaches and activities will you use to prepare students to meet those goals?

Your responses to these questions will help you begin to identify your learning objectives, methods of assessment, and approaches to teaching— three core components of any course. These questions are at the heart of the course design process. Moving through each question systematically is an example of Backward Design, a commonly used framework conceptualized by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. In addition to Backward Design, there are other approaches to course development, many of which incorporate the needs of students and climate of the learning environment as important factors shaping design and teaching choices.

At the Searle Center, we encourage instructors to embrace a learner-centered and inclusive approach to all aspects of their course design process. We offer a variety of programs, services, and resources addressing course design topics, such as developing learning objectives, assessing student learning and giving feedback, using active learning strategies in the classroom, and building high-impact practices into courses.


Our programs offer the Northwestern community a variety of ways to develop teaching skills, enhance student learning, and find community. The following programs will spark your curiosity about course design and delivery.

Quarterly Academic Kickoff Events

Quarterly Academic Kickoff Events are interactive days of informative sessions designed to facilitate graduate student and postdoc transitions to teaching roles at Northwestern University. The events are held every fall and spring.

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Reflective and Effective Teaching

Reflective Teaching Guides further their pedagogical development by mentoring their peers in Reflective and Effective Teaching (RET).

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Universal Design for Learning Practicum

This is a three-week, cohort-based online program designed for participants to reflect on the evolving needs of students and instructors, with an emphasis on mental health.

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STEM Teaching MOOC-Centered Learning Community

Learn about STEM teaching through online courses and a campus learning community. Graduate students, postdocs, and faculty are invited to concurrently participate in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and MOOC-Centered Learning Community (MCLC).

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Mentored Discussions of Teaching

Mentored Discussions of Teaching (MDT) is designed to engage STEM and SBE graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in discussions with faculty about teaching and learning.

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Learning & Teaching Guides

Guides created by or in collaboration with the Searle Center to help educators explore and advance their course design and delivery.

In Our Library

A curated list of recommended books related to course design and delivery available at the Menges Library, located in the Searle Center.

Further Resources

Our current recommendations for both foundational and leading-edge content related to course design and delivery.

Awards & Grants

Northwestern University recognizes educators and researchers doing innovative work. The following list includes opportunities which we believe dovetail with work related to course design and delivery.

Calendar of Events

Below are all of our upcoming events related to course design and delivery.


James Lang's Policy to Pedagogy: Evaluating Artificial Intelligence for Teachers and Learners

2:00 PMRebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street
James Lang's Policy to Pedagogy: Evaluating Artificial Intelligence for Teachers and Learners Building upon arguments fi...

Winter Retreat

10:00 AM627 Dartmouth Place, 627 Dartmouth Place
Come in from the cold with other graduate students and postdocs for a day of toasty conversations to spark your curiosit...

Revealing the Hidden Curriculum by “Opening the Window”: A Heuristic Approach to Communicating Course Expectations and Experiences

2:00 PM
What do you know that students do not know about your curriculum? This workshop will present the Johari window, a psycho...

2024 Spring RAP Learning Lab: Alternative Grading for Course Design

All day
Interested in developing or redesigning an assignment or course using contract grading, ungrading, specs grading, or a c...

2024 Spring Reimagining Assessment Practicum (RAP)

All day
The Reimagining Assessment Practicum is a three-week online series of sessions designed for participants to learn more a...

Campus Partners

We are proud to collaborate with and work alongside the following Northwestern University offices and organizations on course design and delivery.

Contact Us

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