On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Designing Effective and Innovative Courses
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Cutting Edge > Course Design > Course Design Tutorial > Faculty professional development > Workshop nuts and bolts > Schedule details

If you have dropped in from somewhere else, you might wish to start with the either the introduction to our Course Design Tutorial itself or the introduction page for faculty professional development for those who want to adapt or adopt our Course Design workshop.

The details of our workshop schedule


For many years, we have offered this workshop over five days, beginning at noon on Day 1 and ending at noon on Day 5, although the workshop length is technically only four total working days. This allows many workshop participants to travel to and from the workshop on Days 1 and 5 without having to be away an additional day.

The workshop schedule presented below is a true four-day version that begins at 8 am on the morning of Day 1 and ends before dinner on Day 4, a schedule that is more suitable for a workshop where participants live nearby. If you are interested in the rationale behind our course design philosophy, you can find information in our Online Course Design Tutorial or in the information for professional developers.


Before beginning, you may wish to download the documents referred to in discussions in this section, including our PowerPoint slides (PowerPoint 1.2MB Mar16 10), the workshop assignment sheets (Acrobat (PDF) 125kB Dec22 05), a detailed workshop schedule for the summer 2005 workshop (Acrobat (PDF) 149kB Jan5 06), the format for final workshop posters (Acrobat (PDF) 19kB Jan5 06), the "daily road check" evaluation form (Acrobat (PDF) 61kB Jan4 06), and the workshop final evaluation form (Acrobat (PDF) 64kB Jan4 06).


In the workshop details below, we refer to "leaders" and "facilitators" separately. The workshop leaders are the people who have organized the workshop and are intimately familiar with the process and objectives. The leaders recruit facilitators to help with the workshop, guide small group discussions, and provide advice and tree-shaking. You can find advice on selecting facilitators here.

Remember also that the Online Course Design Tutorial contains expanded arguments for our course design process plus all of the examples that we use, most of which are not detailed in the PowerPoint slides. We have provided links to the relevant tutorial sections within the schedule details below.

Workshop Day 1

8:00-8:30 Welcome and introductions
  • Because most of our participants do not know one another or the facilitators, we begin with paired introductions.
  • We then use two examples of courses transformed by the workshop process to set the stage for the kind of design process in which participants with be engaged (PowerPoint slides 2-6)
  • We also introduce participants to the overall structure of the workshop and what the workshop expectations are.
8:30-10:15 Articulating course context and initial draft of overarching goals
  • We begin by introducing the structure of our course design process (PowerPoint slides 7-12; see relevant section in the tutorial.
  • We begin the goals-setting process by considering course context, audience and constraints (PowerPoint slides 17 and 18; see relevant section in the tutorial), and we give participants about 15 minutes to complete the task on context and constraints (PowerPoint slide 19) (Assignment pages 1-4). We discuss the task only if participants have questions; otherwise we move on.
  • We introduce the concept of setting overarching goals that are student-focused and phrased as students being able to do something after they have taken a course (PowerPoint slides 20-28; see relevant section in the tutorial).
  • In order to drive home the point, we give participants about ten minutes to answer the question, "What do you do in your discipline that your students could do at an appropriate level in the context of your course?" (PowerPoint slide 29 and Assignment page 5; see relevant section in the tutorial). We have found this a very effective way of helping faculty think beyond what content they want students to master and what kinds of thinking and problem-solving they want students to do.
  • We want participants to set student-focused overarching goals that involve higher-order thinking skills, that are concrete rather than vague, that have clear measurable outcomes, and that focus on adding more than mastery of a body of content to a student's future abilities. We introduce these ideas in PowerPoint slides 30-43 (see relevant section in the tutorial).
  • In order to give participants practice in evaluating whether goals meet our criteria and to give them practice in improving goals, we give them about 10 minutes to work through a set of straw goals (PowerPoint slide 44 and Assignment pages 6-7; see relevant section in the tutorial). We have found that participants are better able to set goals that meet the criteria if they have had this practice.
  • And finally, we give them about 15 minutes to draft their first set of overarching goals (PowerPoint slide 45-46 and Assignment page 8) and to write the goals plus a bit of course information on a large Post-It that will go up on the wall after a break. This seems like only a short amount of time to do initial work on overarching goals, but we have found that participants benefit from immediate feedback after a small amount of work time and also from seeing what other people have written.
10:30-12:00 Feedback on initial draft of overarching goals; first revision of overarching goals
  • When participants come back from break, all of the posters showing drafts of goals are up on the wall. We give each participant a pad of small Post-Its, and we ask everyone to provide feedback by evaluating whether goals meet the criteria and are reasonable in the context of the course information. We ask participants to offer both encouragement and suggestions for improvement on the little Post-Its and to stick the Post-Its directly on the posters as feedback. We allow about 45 minutes for people to circulate and provide feedback.
  • 45 minutes is not enough time for each leader or facilitator to see all posters, and we make sure that we divide the posters up fairly evenly among facilitators and leaders so that participants receive feedback from several of us in addition to other participants.
  • We give participants about half an hour of individual time to reflect on their overarching goals and the feedback they've gotten and to revise their overarching goals. Facilitators and leaders are available to help participants who are stuck or who need their trees shaken.
  • We end the morning session with any general comments that the leaders and facilitators have to make about what they have read on the posters.
1:00-2:00 Small group work on goals
  • We divide our participants up into groups of 5-6 on the basis of the common elements in the courses they are designing or redesigning, and we assign a leader or facilitator to guide discussion in each group.
  • The purpose of this first small group session is for group members to get to know one another and a little about the course that each group member is designing and for group members to receive feedback on their drafts of overarching goals.
  • We structure this initial group discussion quite rigidly, allotting 8-10 minutes per person during which each group member briefly describes his/her course context and overarching goals and the group provides feedback and suggestions.
  • By the end of the small group discussion, participants typically have workable overarching goals, although most will continue to revise as they move forward.
2:00-2:20 Setting ancillary skills goals
  • Participants next set ancillary skills goals for students, e.g., writing, quantitative skills, teamwork, etc. (PowerPoint slides 47-48 and Assignment page 9; see relevant section in the tutorial).
  • We commonly need to rein in eager participants who want to improve students' abilities in many different skills. We urge them to remember that real improvement can only happen with timely feedback and repeated practice, making it realistic to commit to tackling only a limited number of ancillary skills in any one course.
  • This is not a difficult process for participants, and we spend little time on feedback for ancillary skills goals.
2:20-3:15 Choosing content to achieve overarching goals
  • We have found that participants who move forward to develop a course plan without guidance at this point easily slip back into the comfortable mode of developing a course plan around a list of content items even though they have just spent the better part of a day working to set student-focused overarching goals. If this happens, the potential exists for a huge disconnect between laudable overarching goals and the course itself.
  • We take participants through a process of deliberate selection of content items through which students can achieve the overarching goals (Powerpoint slides 49-75 and Assignment pages 10-11; see relevant section in the tutorial).
  • We have found that this is the second most difficult part of the process for participants and that they benefit greatly from seeing a variety of examples of how context, goals, and content unite to determine the kind of practice that students must receive in the course in order to achieve the overarching goals in the course as well as to master the content.
3:30-5:00 Individual work on overarching, ancillary skills, and content goals; consultations and optional small group meetings
  • At this point, participants are commonly at very different stages in the process. Some have not yet had an epiphany about their overarching goals, and others are ready develop a course plan. Most are somewhere in between.
  • We have found that individual work with consultations by facilitators and leaders is the most effective way to help individuals progress. We also encourage participants to work together if they have similar courses and goals.

Workshop Day 2

8:00-10:15 Teaching tools workshop
  • Developing a course plan involves merging goals and content to plan assignments and activities that will move students toward content mastery and provide them with relevant practice in goals-related tasks (Assignment pages 12-14; see relevant section in the tutorial).
  • Selecting appropriate classroom and assignment strategies is an important part of course plan development (PowerPoint slides 77-79 and Assignment pages 15-16; see relevant section in the tutorial). While many of our participants have some familiarity with classroom techniques other than standard lecture, most are anxious to learn about ways of successfully using a variety of alternative classroom strategies. We schedule one two-hour teaching tools workshop that all participants attend and that covers interactive lecture, effective discussions, the jigsaw technique, and student group work and that provides ample time for discussion of examples, implementation, advantages and pitfalls, and tips for success.
  • Later on during Day 3, we offer optional sessions on other specific teaching ideas.
10:30-12:00 Individual work time to develop a course plan and assignments; optional consultations
  • We have found that, at this point, most participants are eager to move ahead, and most need thinking and consultation time. Participants also know that they must present two informal posters on the last day of the workshop, one outlining course context/demographics, goals, and course plan, and one detailing at least one assignment or activity using one of the teaching strategies that they have learned at the workshop and that helps students move toward achieving the goals.
1:00-5:00 Sequential 40-minute sessions on teaching strategies; optional work time and consultations
  • Each of the facilitators and leaders offers a session on a specific teaching idea, and participants can attend as few or as many as they wish. In the past, we have had sessions on making large classes interactive, poster assignments, writing assignments, concept sketches, concept maps, back-of-the-envelope calculations, GIS, photoimaging, case studies, effective use of web-based assignments, service learning, field-based assignments, knowledge surveys, learning styles, and so on.
  • What we offer at any workshop depends upon the interests and experiences of the facilitators and leaders. The most valuable of these sessions are ones that get beyond "This is what I do in my class" and provide strategies for developing and implementing activities and assignments using the idea or technique.

Workshop Day 3

8:00-10:00 Individual work time and small group meetings; consultations
  • Even though it appears that we have built a great deal of individual work time into our workshops (including evenings, because our workshops have a residential component), almost all participants say that they wish they had had more work time during the workshop. Building in adequate work time is crucial to having participants make enough progress that they can leave the workshop prepared to complete the course design process successfully.
10:15-12:00 Session on assessment
  • We emphasize the fact that incorporating assessment into the course design process is crucial (PowerPoint slides 80-81 and Assignment pages 17-18; see relevant section in the tutorial). In fact, we have integrated aspects of assessment in all parts of the workshop up to this point. Despite this, we have found it useful to have a plenary session specifically on assessment fairly late in the workshop and to use the session to wrap the picture up.
1:00-2:30 Individual work time and consultations
  • We have sometimes switched this session with the subsequent one.
2:30-5:00 Concurrent optional coaching sessions on how to design specific types of assignments
  • As participants are coming down the home stretch in designing one or more assignments or activities, they typically have design challenges in common. We have found it useful to offer group coaching sessions that provide both time to work on a particular type of assignment and time to discuss common questions.
  • In the past, we have had coaching sessions on designing assignments or activities involving debates, the jigsaw technique, web-based materials, quantitative skills, and using demonstrations effectively.
  • We typically offer each of these 40-minute coaching sessions concurrently but repeat each session several times, and participants can attend as few or as many as they would like.

Workshop Day 4

8:30-12:00 Individual work time, poster preparation, and consultations; final posters up before lunch; optional session on running course design workshops
  • The final assignment for each workshop participant is to prepare two posters, hand made with markers on giant Post-It notes. Regular easel paper works as well, but the sticky strips on the Post-It easel paper makes the posters easy to hang.
  • The posters present the course context and constraints, goals, draft of course plan, and details on one or more assignments/activities that help students achieve the goals. You can download the format for final poster workshops (Acrobat (PDF) 19kB Jan5 06) here if you have not already done so.
1:00-3:30 Three sequential poster sessions
  • In order to give all participants a chance both to receive feedback and to see other participants' posters, we have three sequential poster sessions, with one third of the participants at their posters in each session. Each poster session lasts 40 minutes.
  • We ask everyone to provide feedback, both encouragement and suggestions for improvement. We give each participant a pad of small Post-Its, and we ask everyone to write comments on the Post-Its and stick them directly to the posters so that participants have a permanent record of comments, even if they have already received comments verbally.
  • We divide posters up among leaders and facilitators in order to make sure that everyone receives comments from at least two leaders or facilitators. We have found that, in 40 minutes, we can each provide feedback effectively for only 3-4 posters.
3:30-4:00 Plan of action
  • Participants complete a written plan of action outlining what they will need to do between the end of the workshop and the first day of classes in order to finish developing the course, including an approximate time table.
4:00-5:00 Description of workshop follow-up; workshop wrap-up and evaluation
  • We require follow-up to our workshop, including contribution to our online goals/syllabus data base and other On the Cutting Edge resources collections (see relevant section in the tutorial), and participation in follow-up surveys. We also offer participants the opportunity to participate in a email list for former Course Design Workshop participants.
  • We end the workshop with wrap-up comments, tips for successfully following through (see relevant section in the tutorial), and a final workshop evaluation. You can download the workshop final evaluation form (Acrobat (PDF) 64kB Jan4 06) here, if you have not already done so.

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©2005 On-line Course Design Workshop and Tutorial developed by Dr. Barbara J. Tewksbury (Hamilton College) and Dr. R. Heather Macdonald (College of William and Mary) as part of the program On the Cutting Edge, funded by NSF grant DUE-0127310.


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