Sometimes you don't want to redesign an entire course, but just improve one class meeting or unit. Maybe there's a class session where you've noticed that students don't quite "get it" or a unit where you realize when you're grading papers, projects, or exams that they didn't understand and use key concepts in the way you had envisioned.
One helpful framework for improving the design of a class session or unit is David Merrill's "first principles of instruction." As an education researcher, Merrill articulated his five "first principles of instruction" after reviewing a variety of theories of instructional design and seeking to identify their commonalities. His "first principles" can be readily understood and applied by faculty to enhance their instruction in a wide variety of learning contexts.
Concisely, these principles state that learning is promoted when:
Mendenhall, A., Buhanan, C. W., Suhaka, M., Mills, G., Gibson, G. V., & Merrill, M. D. (2006). A task-centered approach to entrepreneurship. TechTrends, 50(4), 84-89.
Merrill, M. D. (2002a). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.
Merrill, M. D. (2002b). A pebble-in-the-pond model for instructional design. Performance Improvement, 41(7), 41-46.
Merrill, M. D. (2007). A task-centered instructional strategy. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(1), 5-22.