My approach to training faculty is through empowerment: collaborative conversation and reflection on the nature of learning and teaching, personal knowledge, and critical thinking within and across disciplines. Despite our tendency to learn and teach disciplines as separate worlds of knowledge, I believe that the foundational habits of evidence-based argument are common across subjects. Moreover, much as the best way to teach inquiry is to have students do inquiry, the best way for teachers to learn inquiry is also by doing research. To that end, I design workshops that are aligned with the standards put forward by CC, C3, and NGSS, but focus on foundational processes that cross disciplines. Here are some workshops I have developed; I would work with you to be certain that the workshop(s) offered meet the particular needs of your school or district, your faculty, and your students.
Asking questions, engaging in listening: We often spend most of our time “listening” actually formulating a response to what has been said, rather than really engaging in understanding. In this workshop, teachers are asked to bring in documents from their discipline or personal interest that are written for the general public – New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, etc. Working in mixed discipline teams, the articles are traded and each participant uses the new – to-them article to develop a potential research question. They then explain to the others in the group (including the “expert” who brought the article) what their question is and why it is interesting. The point of the exercise is to listen and respond to the process of thinking behind the question. We will repeat this several times, to work on building our abilities as engaged listeners rather than critical responders, as well as working on our abilities to develop good research questions based on the kind of information we might have as informed public participants.
Designing and monitoring discussions. Different kinds of questions are appropriate for different pedagogical goals (confirming content knowledge; evaluating pre-conceptions and where students “are” in understanding; using open-ended questions to guide practice of critical thinking and use of evidence). In this workshop, participants will engage in four developmental activities after a brief presentation describing the importance of allowing students to express diverse opinions, and how to listen and provide process-focused feedback. Participants will leave the workshop with discussion questions of diverse types and a sample rubric to evaluate critical thinking processes in their discipline. Possible additional topics that can be covered in this workshop include designing and monitoring settings for small-group work in large classes, and training student peers or parent volunteers to monitor student discussions.
Designing research strategies: As either an extension to the workshop on asking questions and engaged listening, or as a stand-alone workshop, I guide faculty through the process of designing an independent research project. We then brainstorm ways to design classroom activities that allow students to develop quasi-independent projects and carry them through to final data presentation. I will bring a few examples from my own teaching that are inexpensive and easily adjusted to meet individual students’ abilities without creating overwhelming confusion and complexity.
On-line quizzes for practice, content review, and reinforcement. This workshop focuses on creating alignment between the types of questions we develop for multiple choice assessment and the type of learning we hope our students will achieve. During this workshop, we will blend theory and practice, revising some of our existing multiple choice test questions to address different levels on Bloom’s taxonomy. In addition, we will discuss how using certain features of your on-line pedagogical Quiz Tool can support student learning by providing opportunities for practice in lower-stakes testing environments. Guiding student research: Diversity of assignments. This workshop focuses on possible assignment types beyond the classic lab report that can help students develop as independent thinkers, give them safe spaces to make “errors”, and not overwhelm the faculty with grading. We examine how student assignments can parallel the processes of developing and executing research, help them learn how to transfer skills and content across assignments and across disciplines, and engage in making and communicating their own knowledge.