Information for Workshop Conveners
It is our goal to support all workshop conveners in designing, planning, and executing workshops that follow best-practices. To that end, this page provides information about those best practices and the Serckit tools that can be used before, during, and after your workshop. If you have any questions about how to implement these features, contact your web team support person.
Planning an effective workshop is much like planning an effective learning experience for students in the classroom and lab. What goals do you have for the participants? How will the workshop effectively engage participants and ensure that the goals for participants are met? How will you assess whether participants have benefited from the workshop? Here are some best practices that have been gleaned over more than a decade of running workshops in On the Cutting Edge and InTeGrate.
- Active engagement of participants during the workshop: Nothing is deadlier or less effective than a workshop where participants do not participate. Give people an opportunity to participate actively in every session using a variety of techniques: small group discussion, large group discussion, short problem-solving tasks, etc.
- Model effective pedagogy: The most successful workshop sessions are those taught with good active pedagogy in mind and the least successful sessions are those where a presenter simply stands up and talks.
- Give participants time to interact and share experience/knowledge: Participants bring valuable experience and ideas to workshops. Structured mechanisms for sharing experiences and expertise must be an integral part of every workshop program.
- Emphasize practical applications: An emphasis on practical applications and strategies is an important aspect of effecting change in teaching practice.
- Give participants time to make progress on a specific task that connects the workshop topic to their teaching: Time to work individually during the workshop allows participants to reflect and to make progress on adapting workshop content to their own needs. This can be effectively supported during the workshop by providing opportunities for participants to work one-on-one or in small groups with workshop leaders.
- Make sure that participants leave the workshop with specific plans for future action: Workshops can produce a wide variety of results ranging from changes in teaching practice and development of new learning resources to department-level planning and community-wide action. In all cases, workshop time devoted to planning next steps and feedback from peers is critical.
- Provide materials and examples: Examples of how the workshop topics can be applied in the classroom and field are particularly valuable resources for participants.
- Require some preparation in advance of the workshop: Coming prepared is as important for a workshop as it is for a class. A variety of approaches can be used to prepare participants for the workshop including reflection on their goals for the workshop, development of project ideas for completion at the workshop, assembling materials for sharing, pre-workshop discussion, and participating in surveys of participant needs.
- Make use of the workshop website: Use the program page to organize documents that you would like the participants to access either prior to or during the workshop. Additional pages of resources can be added to your website if you wish. Each workshop also comes with a private workspace for use by the workshop participants (more information below). The website will be a resource that your participants can return to when they want to make use of what they learned.
Serckit (formerly the SERC CMS) was designed with support for these best-practices in mind. Through Serckit, you have access to a variety of tools to facilitate the run up to, execution of, and follow-up to your workshop at the Rendezvous.
Participant Email List
Each workshop has a private email list that includes the participants and convener(s). This email list can be used to broadcast information to all of your participants and can also be configured to allow discussion between participants if you wish. This can be a good way of generating participant interaction around particular topics ahead of your workshop. Contact your web team support person for the unique email address of your list.
You can use Serckit's survey tools to gather information about your participants to aid in customizing your program for them. We recommend posting such surveys far enough in advance of the Rendezvous that you will be able to get a good response rate and also have time to digest the information that you receive. If you want to run such a survey, contact your web team support person before June 22, 2015.
Each workshop comes with a private workspace for use by the workshop participants. Participants can easily record discussion notes, synthesize community consensus, draft teaching or outreach materials, develop action plans and many other activities. You can see examples of how Workspaces can be used in the context of a workshop in this Example Workspace from On the Cutting Edge. Your web team support person can help you configure the workspace to support the kind of interaction that you want to facilitate so please have a conversation with them far enough in advance to set things up.
If you wish, you can have participants complete and upload an Action Plan for what they will do with what they learned in your workshop. We have a generic Action Plan Template (Microsoft Word 26kB Jun15 15) that you can use directly or customize for your workshop. If you want to make use of the Action Plan in your workshop, let your web team support person know so they can build the necessary upload form in your workshop site.
Those leading multi-day workshops have the option of conducting evaluations mid-workshop. These short, online forms can provide formative feedback on the structure and focus of the workshop as a way of improving subsequent sessions. Conveners will have access to the data from these forms and make use of the feedback as they see fit. Note that the data will not be anonymous. If you are interested in using Roadchecks for your workshop, select two or three questions from the question bank and communicate with your web team support person by July 1, 2015.
- What are the top one or two things you learned today that you will use in your professional work?
- Do you have any comments, concerns, suggestions, or complaints about any aspect of the workshop that you would like to bring to our attention?
- What aspects of the event were the most valuable for you and why? What aspects of the event were the least valuable for you and why?
- What do you need out of the workshop sessions tomorrow (and the next day) to satisfy your goals for attending the workshop?
- Tomorrow, we will work in small groups on projects or products that will help us move forward collectively. What would you like to work on?
End of Workshop Evaluations
All workshops are required to have an End of Workshop Evaluation and you will be provided with a form to use. This exit survey will be tied to your workshop goals and is designed to get formative feedback on the workshop format and how it serves participants' overall meeting goals, as well as feedback for you. Your web team support person will build a form in your workshop site with standard questions.
You can read more about the lessons learned over the years of Cutting Edge and InTeGrate workshops on those project websites:
- On the Cutting Edge: Plan, Design, and Convene a Workshop
- Workshop Planning from the InTeGrate project
Each workshop room has wifi access and a projector. Please plan on bringing your own laptop to use for presentations (including an projector adaptor if you're using a Mac). Also, plan to bring any supplies you might need. If you need to make copies or get supplies on-site, check the UMC shops, which include a copy center and book store.