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Course structure

A page within CATL Teaching Improvement Guide

Brief Description

Course structure refers to the choice of topics, organization, and sequencing of course content. The choice of topics and their organization should always support the learning objectives for the course.  Course structure gives the student an idea of how the learning process is organized, including the schedule, communication modes, types of activities, and assessments. Pedagogy design considerations and course structure lay the foundation for developing course content.
Courses should build towards increasing complexity, starting with component pieces and working towards synthesis and integration. As Fink (2003) puts it: "The goal is to sequence the topics so that they build on one another in a way that allows students to integrate each new idea, topic, or theme in the preceding ones as the course proceeds" (p.128). 
When providing a strong teaching/course structure, students know exactly what they need to learn, what they are supposed to do to learn the material, and when and where they are supposed to do it. When this happens, learning activities meet learning objectives and course goals.
You can improve your teaching methods and course structure by ensuring that your course is designed and implemented for the students.


  1. Identify and set clear course goals
  2. Design an effective syllabus
  3. Design learning environments that support a variety of learning styles
  4. Methodically organize and sequence course content

Tips to Implement Course Structure Effectively

  • Content Goals - Consider what knowledge you want students to attain. Start with a broad perspective, considering all that you want students to become away of and then narrow your selection to fit the parameters of your course.

  • Skill Goals - Consider what abilities you want your students to attain. What should students be able to do with their learning after completing your course?  How can they apply their new knowledge?

  • The structure of the course need to be logical and consistent. It needs to reflect some natural order within the content.

  • Provide a detailed description of your course structure.

  • Where possible, categorize sections into organized groups with a hierarchical structure.


  • Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college course. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bazluki, M.  (2015). Course Structure. In Teaching Improvement Guide. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from