Category Archives: workshop facilitation

What? So What? Now What?

The title of this blog post presents a framework for reflective teaching practice that I would like to play around with in this blog post.

I have just participated in the three day Course Design Intensive workshop offered through the Centre for Teaching and Learning at UBC. My role was both as a participant and as a future facilitator. I took notes about both the workshop facilitation and the course design principles. I brought my First Year Seminars in Science (SCIE113) DACUM (aka. our course goals, skills, and objectives) and reflected on the strengths of our course design and the changes we have made in our re-design efforts.

So What?
I found the workshop valuable on several levels. I connected with like-minded teaching colleagues, and enjoyed the opportunity to hear about and provide input on a wide-variety of teaching scenarios. I’ve identified new teaching tools and lots of literature that I’d like to follow-up with. This was a chance for me to evaluate my own interest and suitability to act as a facilitator for future offerings of the workshop – which I see as a great opportunity. This course helped me to set aside valuable time (in my extremely time sensitive schedule this term) to reflect on the SCIE113 DACUM. I have concluded that the changes we have made in implementation and assessments from the pilot to the scaled up version of the course are still aligned with our course goals and learning objectives. I wonder if grouping the learning objectives into three units instead of six units would better help students (and Instructors) connect the in-class writing assignments to the course content. However, my visual views of the course materials (mind maps/visual syllabus) still identify at least 5 distinct units (see picture below).

Now What?
I will draw the visual syllabus picture – that I came up with today – on the first class of SCIE113. This picture will offer a valuable view of how the course content connects together and will highlight the course goals to students. If I start with the “you” part of the picture, I can also start with a comments about my classrooms as 1) safe places, 2) the importance of trying, and making mistakes, and 3) hard work. I also like how the voice, piece of writing, and the hand highlight the role that students can play in science – and how their voice is important.

I have a list of books that I would like to add to my library.
Dee Fink ISBN 0-7879-6055-1 ** I already reference this book. I should buy it.
Brookfield/Preskill Effective Use of Discussion ISBN 0-7879-4458-0
Brookfield -Teaching Critical Thinking ISBN 978-0-470-88934-3
Weimer Learner Centered Teaching ISBN 0-7879-5646-5
Graphic Syllabus ISBN 978-0-470-88934-3

I also need to set aside some time to read this literature. In fact, I think it would be useful to do some deliberate reflection around several topics 1) Balancing my workload, 2) Things that worked well this past term in SCIE113 (This past term of SCIE113 was very close to my description of my ideal teaching experience. What did this look like? Why did this happen? & What did I do that supported this experience? 3) Highest Priority for changes in SCIE113 (at a personal level and at a program level) 4) SOTL research ideas/action items/follow-up stemming out of SCIE113.

Lastly, I will follow up with the CDI team about participating in future offerings as a facilitator.

Observe What Works, Put it to Work!

One of the easiest things to do to improve as an educator is to watch others and take what you can to use in your own classrooms.

Recently, we hosted a professional development conference for BC high school teachers called, “It’s Your Experiment!” The workshop was part of our two day conference and aimed to develop new curricula based lesson plans for use in the classroom.  This was a chance for teachers to work with each other to generate teaching materials, link these teaching items to the BC high school IRPs and generally be creative.  We collaborated with Connie Cirkony, previously from the Engaging Science program at Science World – now with the BC ministry of education to facilitate the workshop.  Connie has lots of experience at facilitating workshops for teachers, and as an educator myself, I was interested in the process as much as I was interested in the outcomes.  Here’s a couple tricks of the “workshop facilitation” trade that Connie used that were good teaching tools.

The activity that we used to wrap up the workshop was to generate an action plan.  With this task, we gave teachers 1) a chance to think about it, 2) a chance

action-plan-cardto write it down, and 3) a chance to share their action plan with other teachers in the group.  With each step in this activity the likelihood of actually completing the items on your list goes up.  Think about it, write it down, and tell someone… a real recipe for success!  Here’s an example of another implementation of this activity (from another conference that I participated in recently), a card provided to participants so that they can collect their ideas from the day.  Another great idea that we can use for our future teacher workshops/conferences.

The activities that we started off the day with included A) a reflection + B) a brainstorming session.  Both activities are real staples of an effective workshop.  With the brainstorming activity, we asked teachers to brainstorm ideas for lesson plans.  Which subjects did they have troubles teaching?  Which subjects would they like help with?  Which items did they really need a good lesson plan for?  We asked each teacher to write 5 ideas down, each item on a different colored recipe card.  Next, we turned this brainstorming activity into an organizing exercise by asking teachers to group the items together.  The final stage of the activity was to link these ideas to the BC curricula – as supplied by the list of PLO (prescribed learning outcomes) that the ministry of education published.   In the end, this exercise provided a good metacognition activity that captured ideas plus offered a chance for reflection.


Teachers Brainstorming and Organizing Ideas

Another reflection activity that Connie introduced, and I plan on using often with teachers, was what I’ll call the “Take your Hat off” activity.  In this activity, Connie invited the teachers “to take their workshop participants hats off and put on their teacher hats.”  With this invitation, she was asking the teachers to reflect on the logistics and design of the workshop as educators.  Use the model of the workshop as a model for what works in the classroom.  Observe what works, and put it to work. I’ve since used this “take your hat off” activity with a group of teachers with success.  I invited the group of teachers to “take your teacher hats off, put on your students hats.”  An invitation to reflect on what running this activity would be like in their classrooms, and how it would be received by their students.  It worked great too, because as soon as I asked the teachers to “put on your student hat” he started to goof off like a 14year old.  We had a lot of fun with that!  In addition to a setting a good tone, it worked as a perfect icebreaker activity.