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Michael Palmer

Workshop Descriptions

Workshop description are organized by topics.

Course Design

Course Design Institute
The Course Design Institute is an intensive, multi-day workshop. Participants design or substantially redesign a course so that it promotes significant, long-term learning. The workshop follows “backward design” principles, which differ significantly from more traditional, content-driven models. In small learning teams comprised of fellow faculty and graduate students, and with guidance from an experienced facilitator, participants define meaningful course goals, explore novel ways to assess them, develop classroom activities aligned with these goals, and lastly, map out the structure of the course.


Beyond Grades: Improving Learning and Teaching with Authentic Assessment
Ever hear faculty lament, “I don’t know why my students did so poorly on the test. I thoroughly covered all the material in [insert lecture, discussion, lab or other pedagogy here].” Or hear students say, “I really like the course, but the test had nothing to do with what we’re doing in class?” In this interactive session, we will explore the roots of these contradictions and discuss the role assessment plays in aligning student learning with our most meaningful learning goals. Participants will consider ways to incorporate more authentic, learner-centered, forward-looking assessments into their curricula to improve learning and teaching.

Creative Thinking

the other side of the box: fostering creativity in—and out of—the college classroom
Edward de Bono wrote: Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at life in a different way. Think of the word ‘life’ as a placeholder, a fill-in-the-blank. Now, imagine that ‘life’ changes to ‘biology’; ‘biology’ becomes ‘sociology’ becomes ‘philosophy’… What established patterns might be worth breaking in your discipline? How might you help your students look at your field in new and unexpected ways? In this session, we’ll explore ways to foster creativity in your students and to help them become creators, inventors and discoverers of knowledge, in any number of disciplines.

Critical Thinking

Teaching through Critical Thinking Tasks
Ask most any faculty member about their course objectives and no doubt you’ll hear mention in some shape or form ‘critical thinking.’ Yet all too often little or no time is devoted to the development of students’ critical thinking skills. With careful planning, however, critical thinking tasks can be woven seamlessly throughout a course and can, in fact, help students better grapple with the questions, problems, and issues that lie at the heart of the subject. In this highly interactive session, participants will engage in a variety of simple, yet powerful critical thinking tasks explicitly designed to develop a broad range of cognitive skills and that can be integrated easily into almost any course.

The ‘Science’ of Questioning: Promoting Critical Thinking with Purposeful Questions

Asking a question is the simplest way of focusing thinking . . . asking the right question may be the most important part of thinking. — Edward de Bono

The type of questions we ask our students determines their responses, whether we are constructing discussion questions, prompts for student response systems (aka clickers), or test questions (pick your favorite: multi-choice, short answer, essay). If we ask students to recall facts, they will respond with facts. If, on the other hand, we ask them to apply their knowledge to novel problems, analyze data or texts, synthesize arguments, or evaluate competing ideas, we foster deep learning and encourage them to think in ways grounded within our disciplines. In this interactive workshop, we will explore a research-based framework for categorizing questions, analyze different types of questions, and practice asking questions that promote critical thinking.

Engaging Students (Motivation, Active Learning, Collaborative Learning)

Active Learning: Tips & Strategies to Promote Significant Learning

What exactly is active learning, why does it promote significant learning, and how does an instructor create such a rich learning environment? In addition to exploring these fundamental questions, we will discuss tips and strategies, as well as challenges, for employing active learning techniques in the classroom. All who teach will find the workshop particularly helpful, regardless of whether your teaching takes place in a traditional classroom or a more informally setting or whether your teaching is supported/enhanced by technology.

Collaborative Learning: Helping Students Learn How to Learn
How often have you heard that today’s students are simply passive observers “learning” only enough to get them through the test, that they’re unable to make connections between ideas, or that they’re lacking creativity, passion, motivation? Have you found yourself thinking these things but struggle with how exactly to make meaningful changes to your courses? Collaborative learning, or structured group work, is a proven strategy that actively engages students, enhances critical thinking, promotes deep—as opposed to superficial—learning and, at the same time, shifts the focus from instructor to students. In this highly interactive workshop, we’ll briefly define collaborative learning and discuss its benefits as a pedagogical tool, explore several group learning activities by engaging in a collaborative exercise, and discuss best practices for designing and implementing activities, assigning and managing groups, and assessing student learning.

Engaging Students, Engaging Minds
What does it mean to be an engaged learner? Clearly, the student in the back row reading the newspaper has disconnected—some might say he’s “checked out”—of the learning process. What about the student who comes to class, takes copious notes, and does fine on the exams? Is she engaged? Is she learning? Drawing on theories of cognition and motivation, participants in this interactive workshop will define student engagement, characterize what it looks like in and out of the classroom, and explore ways to foster engagement and learning.

Engaging Minds through Engaging Questions: Reimagining STEM Education
Inspiring. Provocative. Intriguing. Confounding. These are but some of the adjectives one might give to what Ken Bain, author of What the Best College Teachers Do, calls “beautiful questions.” Every discipline (and every course) has them. They not only capture our attention and imagination as scholars but also the attention and imagination of our students. Building on ideas discussed in the morning session, participants will consider ways to teach and promote learning through beautiful, enduring questions.

Motivation as a Means to Two Ends: Retention & Learning in STEM Courses
How do we retain students in STEM courses? How do we promote deep approaches to learning? Complex questions, no doubt, but ones often addressed through an understanding of student motivation. Drawing heavily on prevailing theories, participants in this highly interactive session will consider ways to create learning environments that help students discover the value of their STEM education, adopt beliefs consistent with a growth mindset, and ultimately encourage persistence.

Scholarly Teaching & the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The 5% Rule, or Teaching As a Scholarly Act
Imagine that one of your teaching goals is to get 5% better each time teaching a course—a perfectly reasonable goal. But, how would you do that, and how would you know if you were successful? In this session, learn how taking a scholarly approach to teaching, one informed by and grounded in the literature, can help you meet your teaching improvement goals and, importantly, improve your students’ learning.

Teaching Large Enrollment Courses

Promoting Learning in Large Enrollment Courses
Whether you’ve “been there, done that” or are experiencing large course instruction for the first time, the challenges associated with teaching a large enrollment course can be daunting. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the unique aspects of teaching in this environment and explore effective ways to promote learning.

Sailing in a Sea of Students: Effectively Navigating Large Enrollment Classes
Whether you’ve “been there, done that” or are experiencing large course instruction for the first time, the challenges associated with teaching a large enrollment course can be daunting. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the unique aspects of teaching large classes and explore the factors most responsible for success—organization, communication, and connection with students.

Teaching with Teaching Assistants: A Conversation
Teaching assistants are invaluable. Not only can they help with the onerous task of grading, they can hold office hours and review sessions, help organize and manage in-class activities, facilitate small group instruction, and serve as the first point of contact between you and your students. Without careful thought, planning, and training, however, your godsend can quickly become one of your biggest challenges. In this informal conversation, we will explore ideas for helping your TAs become an integral part of your teaching team, including ways to best establish expectations, utilize them in and out of class, train them for grading, and create effective lines of communication.