At the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), I host a myriad of trainings depending on the focus and instructional needs across campus. When approaching professional development—in addition to content—I consider factors such as time commitments and formats to best serve the needs of as many individuals as possible. This post contains such information for the major types of trainings I host at the University of Oklahoma.
Faculty Learning Communities (FLC)
Faculty Learning Communities are cohort-based sessions that focus on an instructional topic for several weeks during a semester. Typically, FLCs contain faculty, staff, and/or graduate students from various disciplines. Since most attendees come from different backgrounds, I intentionally allot time for open conversation so people have the chance to connect with one another and learn from each other—this is a crucial component of a FLC, building community within the cohort.
During our time together, we study pedagogy, technology integrations, and practical applications of these ideas. My FLCs are designed to be experiential and thus far have only been hosted in a face-to-face format (although I’m investigating what an online FLC would look like on our campus). For example, the GOBLIN FLC explores “what games have to teach us about learning” by having participants play games and combine these experiences with targeted discussion that expands upon the pedagogical ideas introduced during the gameplay.
FLCs are among my favorite professional development to host because they give me the chance to get to know the phenomenal people all across campus. This often leads to further scholarship and collaborations that result in instructors implementing many of the ideas that we study as a cohort. I highly recommend this training format and you can read more about Faculty Learning Communities here and here.
Typical Time: 1-2 hours per week over 5-8 weeks
Typical Size: 4-12 people (Ideal Size: 6-8 people)
Workshops (One-Offs & Series)
These sessions are intended for the busiest of individuals who might only be able to attend a ~1-hour targeted session about a tool or process. As such there’s less emphasis on community building (like an FLC) and solely a focus on content. Sometimes these sessions are structured and exploratory, other times they’re more open-ended and discussion based (whatever makes the most sense to cover the appropriate amount of content and cater to the needs of the attendees). The OU Create Introduction workshop I run is a combination of these two formats as we start with a structured set of content and transition into an open-ended portion that allows participants to first get their domain up and running and then explore the Domain of One’s Own space.
My main recommendation for workshops is to avoid hosting ones that are solely technical tutorials. Instead, focus them around a particular use case (i.e. WordPress for Instruction Use or Twitter for Professional Use) that gives folks a starting point when applying the knowledge they’re gaining during the workshop and afterwards.
Typical Time: 0.5-2 hours per session
Typical Size: 2-16 people
- Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Workshop Series
- OU Create Introduction (Video)
- WordPress for Instructional Use
- Twitter for Professional Use
- Introduction to Canvas
Seminars and reading groups are heavily discussion based. Typically content is read/studied before attending a session and our time together is devoted to sharing thoughts and pushing each others ideas further. Sometimes more information is presented to prime the direction of discussion, especially when the participants are studying lesser known topics and require more support during their learning. Additionally, these sessions can either happen in series or singularly. If a book is being read together over a few weeks, then we meet in series much like a FLC.
For me, these types of professional development are less structured and more open-ended in terms of content than any other trainings we offer. In other words, our goals are about getting through a book/artifact/presentation and building learning from there rather than structuring and supporting specific learning objectives present in other types of training.
Typical Time: 1-2 hours per session
Typical Size: 4-8 people
- Paying The Price Reading Group (I attended/built website, did not lead this one)
- Technology Enabled Learning – GTA Seminar
When something needs to be experienced and learned as in-depth as possible, as quickly as possible, I host a bootcamp/sprint. I try and gear these types of professional development sessions around completing a project. For example, a main motivation for attending Canvas Camp was to fully develop and complete a Canvas course in preparation for the upcoming semester. Similarly, WebFest challenged participants to finish a brand new website in under a week.
These types of trainings are extremely pragmatic in approach to quickly satisfy specific needs. That being said, since there’s a goal to produce a deliverable during bootcamps/sprints, I plan for at least half of our time together to be dedicated towards open-ended development were folks can ask questions and more forward with their projects rapidly. Less than half of our time together is comprised of demonstrations, presentations, explorations, etc. Honestly, I try to minimize this piece in favor of the open-ended development time as it is the most valuable for participants. It’s almost as though experiential learning is a great way for folks to truly grow in their understanding (insert tongue-in-cheek emoji here). I’ve written more extensively about the design behind this training format here, if your interest.
Typical Time: 2 hours per session, 4 sessions in 1 week
Typical Size: 4-12 people (Ideal Size: 6-8 people)
There are other professional development opportunities that don’t quite fit into the above categories. For example, we hosted a half day of various workshops around the best uses of Canvas to showcase across campus. This was conducted as a sort of “mini conference” where people came and attended a variety of sessions hosted by instructors, instructional designers, and IT personnel across several topic tracks.
Another type of training I’ve offered are “office hours” around technology or teaching strategies. These are come-and-go sessions that are support mechanisms to cater to the wide range of questions/problems faculty face when dealing with Canvas, WordPress, etc. I enjoy the open-ended format and laid-back atmosphere of these sessions. 🙂
- Paint Canvas Mini Conference
- Office Hours
I want to take a moment and shoutout John Stewart here. He’s been my partner in many of these projects and our co-teaching has also led to significant “co-mentoring,” (as defined by Maha Bali, Hoda Mostafa, and Sherif Osman in the “What We Learned from Co-Teaching” chapter of The Open Faculty Patchbook).
Do you host professional development that you’d consider a different format than these? I’d love to hear about it and see some examples. 🙂