DIY workshops

Sometimes your staff or students could really benefit from a workshop on a particular topic. Here is a template for creating workshops for any aspect of academic development for staff or students. I have used this successfully for workshops about teaching and supervision.

  1. Pick a topic you want a workshop on: quality supervision, teaching international students, writing journal articles….
  2. Get practitioners for a panel (students or staff). They need to be excellent at the topic, and also reflective; they should have thought about and articulated what they do. Choose diverse practitioners to give different points of view. 3 is a good number for a 1 hour workshop, and you can increase the amount of time for each of the activities listed below if you want a longer workshop
  3. Develop some questions related to the topic, and tell the panel that you will ask them to start by responding to some or all of these questions. The questions should be about the sort of issues the workshop participants will be grappling with (see the example below)
  4. Write a blurb for the workshop which includes the panel members and the questions, and use this to advertise the session
  5. I use a whiteboard to list each idea that is suggested by a panel or audience member. As an option, this can then be compiled into a word document that lists the answers to the questions, or a list of tips and techniques.
  6. Timing of the session: I use the following schedule for the workshop. If you have a longer workshop give longer for each stage.
5 minutes Have audience introduce themselves to someone they don’t know and chat
5 minutes Ask the audience to thank the person they were talking to and introduce themselves to someone new. Finish the 10 minutes by asking them to thank the person they were talking to.
Introduce the session and the panel
20 minutes Give around 5 minutes per panel member for initial response to questions, then ask the audience to talk to someone beside them and share what they took from the panel comments.
10 minutes Q&A from audience and general discussion
5 minutes Ask the audience to talk with the people beside them: What is the most important thing you take from the session? What will you take away? Have a few people share with the whole group
2 minutes Finish with the panel: What is the main advice you have for the audience about the topic?

Example 1: Teaching failures, blunders and catastrophes: Learning from our mistakes

We all make mistakes when we teach but we rarely talk about them. We may even think of failures as a mark of a bad teacher, even though we can’t enhance or improve our teaching, or try out innovative practices, without making teaching mistakes. In this highly interactive session, three award-winning teachers will share experiences of their teaching failures, blunders and train wrecks. Participants will discuss these experiences and what they tell us about teaching and learning. This will be a fun and stimulating session where we can talk about our failures and how to deal with them. Our aim is to collaboratively develop a kinder approach to teaching, where we acknowledge mistakes as necessary to our process of professional learning.

  1. What is one major teaching failure you can share with staff?
  2. What have you learned from your teaching failures? How have they enhanced your teaching?
  3. What is the best way to approach ‘failures’ in teaching? Eg do you try to see them as a learning experience? Do you seek them?

Example 2: Teaching Challenging Topics

Our students sometimes are challenged and confronted by the topics we teach, not because they are academically difficult, but because they raise sensitive issues that might be upsetting, disturbing or distressing. What we teach might remind them of upsetting incidents from their past (eg abortion, adoption or sexual violence), or it might confront their ethical or religious concerns (eg dissection), or even confront a deeply held assumption or prejudice (eg indigenous approaches to the Law or Planning). Sometimes we know our topics are likely to be confronting for some of our students and we can prepare for this, but often we cannot predict when a topic might be challenging, and so we also have to have a plan to deal with unexpected upsets.

Join us to hear the panel share their strategies for teaching challenging topics, and then join the panel for further discussion.

  • How can we plan for our teaching when we know we might be including challenging topics?
  • How can we teach challenging topics so we support students who might be upset?
  • How can we maximise learning despite, or perhaps because of, the challenging nature of what we teach?
  • What do we do when we have students who are unexpectedly upset?



About Clinton Golding

Clinton Golding is Associate Professor at the University of Otago Higher Education Development Centre. His previous positions include Philosopher in Residence at Rangitoto College in Auckland, and Thinking Coordinator at Queen Margaret College in Wellington and St. Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, where he worked to develop the thinking of staff and students. He was also a senior lecturer at The University of Melbourne where he received 5 local and national teaching awards.
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