Leading Workshops with Active Learning Methods

The tools that we use in the classroom often can be used in other settings, both on and off campus: department or community meetings, board meetings, workshops, and even in conference presentations. Recently, I had the pleasure of organizing an event that was part of the University Worth Fighting For series at the CUNY Graduate Center, “Co-Teaching and Co-Writing: Strategies for Collegial Collaboration.” The first half of the workshop included lightning talks (you can read more about them here in our collaborative notes document) but after a brief Q&A with the audience, the event took an unusual turn.

I asked participants to choose from three breakout groups that would focus on collaboratively composing blog posts to be shared publicly on HASTAC.org. HASTAC is the world’s first and oldest academic social network, boasting 17,000+ members worldwide. The idea for the second half of the workshop was to pool all the expertise in the room to share tips on co-teaching and co-writing with a public audience.

For approximately 30 minutes, we worked in groups to co-author three blog posts, and you will see that each post turned out a bit differently based on how each group decided to collaboratively work together:

Strategies for Co-Writing

Strategies for Co-Teaching

10 Questions to Ask Your Professor About Co-Authorship in Your First Meeting

Instead of reaching only the 20 or so people in the room, the event reached many more people through public writing. Together, the posts have been viewed approximately 200 times since they were published. In addition, participants expressed feeling a sense of accomplishment in both practicing and applying the strategies they learned in the workshop and in creating resources to share with others.

This kind of hands-on activity achieves a deeper kind of learning than lecturing or hosting a panel of talks. Active learning methods, as we know from ample research, are effective in increasing student performance. Why would we treat our fellow co-learners, our colleagues, differently? The same amount of time, attention, and care to teaching should be put into our organized workshops, panels, and other events. Active learning certainly will make these events more memorable, and potentially serve a wider community than the number of people in attendance.

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