Initial Publication Date: June 5, 2013

Workshop Planning

Workshop Expectations | Role of Co-convener | Workshop Participant Roles | Designing Effective Workshops

Workshops by their nature require planning by a team that spans the expertise needed to fully engage the topic and includes experts in workshop planning. The following process is used by InTeGrate to effectively design workshops.

  1. Plan the program. Using electronic and phone communications, the workshop co-conveners will review and refine the workshop goals. They will then create a workshop program meeting these goals. The co-conveners will also identify workshop leaders able to execute the various aspects of the program, as well as participants who should be encouraged to apply for the workshop.
  2. Advertise. All conveners will take responsibility for encouraging applications within the specific target community, selecting the participants and developing the program materials.
  3. Website. A website with resources will be developed to support the workshop, which will eventually support the overall InTeGrate project. The conveners provide recommendations for how the workshop results should be represented in the website and review the final pages.

Workshop Expectations

All workshops are expected to:
  • Create a collection of resources that document current understanding and practice related to the topic in alignment with InTeGrate overarching goals. These will be cataloged and disseminated via the InTeGrate website.
  • Develop a strategy for moving the topic from its current state to one in which it is broadly implemented in undergraduate education.
  • Lead directly to next steps in implementing this strategy making effective use of other InTeGrate program elements, collaborators, and resources.
  • Identify people and topics that could help with aspects of the InTeGrate project
  1. Developing teaching materials and evaluation of new teaching resources and instructional strategies,
  2. Implementation programs to incorporate geoscience throughout the curriculum,
  3. Professional development and dissemination strategies to promote widespread adoption of these new approaches.
  • All InTeGrate workshops should strive to develop leadership capacity in the undergraduate community.

Role of Workshop Conveners

Workshop conveners are an integral part of the workshop planning, implementation and dissemination of results. Conveners are selected because of their expertise in the topical area of the workshop and their leadership in communities the workshop seeks to engage. Workshop conveners are expected to:

    • Assist with development of the workshop program and participant selection in accordance with InTeGrate design guidelines and timetables.
    • Cooperate fully in development of workshop and web resources, and evaluation activities, including submission of same resources participants are asked to supply (e.g. activity or course descriptions, essays)
    • Attend the entire workshop with in-person planning and wrap-up time before and after the event.
    • Provide prompt financial accounting and billing when appropriate.
    • Collaborate on publication and dissemination of workshop results.
In our experience, workshop conveners engage in four-six one-hour phone conversations in advance of the workshop, spend about 8 hours of time assisting with workshop advertising, recruitment of speakers, and planning for presentations, attend the full workshop including a meeting taking place during the afternoon prior to the workshop, and spend about one day writing articles or making presentations after the workshop.

Workshop Participant Roles

These roles should be made clear in the workshop information prior to application.

  • Contribute to resource collections prior to and following the workshop.
  • Prepare in advance for workshop discussions via readings, writings, discussion, or other activities developed by workshop leaders.
  • Participate fully in the entire workshop.
  • Be leaders in follow-on activities leading to broad implementation.

Designing Effective Workshops

From the experinece of the On the Cutting Edge project, the following effective practices form the foundation of workshop design, planning, and delivery.

  • Active engagement of participants during the workshop: Nothing is deadlier or less effective than a workshop where participants do not participate. Our goal is to 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, involvement of participants in trying out activities, individual or paired work at the computer, and scheduled thinking and writing time.
  • Modeling effective pedagogy: Participant evaluations tell us that our most successful workshop sessions are those taught with good pedagogy in mind and that our least successful sessions are those where a presenter simply stands up and talks. We will be vigilant about how presenters structure sessions with the goal of using effective pedagogy in all sessions.
  • Giving 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. We will support this aspect of the program with unstructured social time that supports the development of networks that will last beyond the workshop.
  • Emphasizing practical applications: An emphasis on practical applications and strategies is an important aspect of effecting change in teaching practice. Workshop participants frequently comment on the value of examples of what works and what doesn't. Future workshops will continue to provide practical examples
  • Giving 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. Workshop programs will include scheduled work and reflection time for participants.
  • Making 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 is critical. Posters and oral presentation of plans have proven to be an important motivator in developing realistic plans and in encouraging follow through. Feedback from other participants facilitated through poster sessions or small group discussion also been extremely valuable as a mechanism for sharing practical experience. We will continue to emphasize specific plans for future action and will use a variety of techniques for presentation and feedback in our workshops.
  • Providing materials and examples: Examples of how the workshop topics can be applied in the classroom and field have been particularly valuable resources for participants. We emphasize the template character of the examples, stressing that participants are unlikely to adopt an individual activity wholesale, but rather to pattern something after one of the examples provided.
  • Requiring 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 will 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 (e.g. course syllabi, learning resources, topical papers), pre-workshop discussion, and participating in surveys of participant needs. The workshop website will provide support for pre-workshop activity.
  • Having workshop presenters from a variety of types of institutions and/or disciplines: Participants from a variety of kinds of colleges and universities and from a variety of disciplines within the geosciences greatly enrich any workshop experience by providing multiple viewpoints and approaches. Classroom experiences vary substantially from two-year colleges to research universities, as does the role or effectiveness of specific content material or pedagogical technique. It is extremely helpful to advancing the collective understanding of effective geoscience education to have breadth of experience in a discussion. We will retain an emphasis on diversity of presenters and participants in future workshops.
  • Thorough minute-by-minute planning of workshop sessions: Good workshops that appear to flow spontaneously reflect extensive planning by leaders and a common understanding of the program and its objectives. In the months before each workshop, leaders must flesh-out the workshop schedule through a series of email discussions, phone conversations, conference calls, and, when possible, a meeting. This is especially crucial for modeling effective pedagogy when there are many leaders or presenters. We will continue to do this kind of detailed planning with a pre-workshop run-through in future workshops.