Friday, October 12, 2012

Supporting community college faculty across the disciplines

I recently spent 48 hours in Northfield, MN (home of Malt-O-Meal) to work with educators from different disciplines and different organizations trying to find ways to increase two-year college faculty awareness of and participation in professional development opportunities.

The workshop was hosted by Carleton College and its Science Education Research Council.  SERC ( has amassed an impressive collection of resources across multiple disciplines including geoscience (the first discipline), chemistry, economics, mathematics, physics, psychology,  and more. 

The Pedagogy in Action page ( has links for Teaching Methods, Activities, and Research on Learning. SERC is continually seeking to improve its website to become a one-stop launching point for finding discipline-specific lesson plans, research-based pedagogical strategies, student projects, career information--essentially anything of interest to an educator seeking to improve student learning.

SERC has also been learning how to run effective workshops.  We were given pre-workshop assignments to upload essays into designated spaces on the SERC website that were visible to the other  participants but not to the rest of the world.  And during  the workshop we were constantly moving from whole group to small group activities, mixing tasks from cross-discipline to the discipline-specific. 

Each group would choose a recorder, who wirelessly entered directly into the SERC system.  The others in the small working group could see the notes on their own computers during their discussion, and the notes were available to the whole group during the "share out" session. Working across disciplines allowed us to learn of challenges and strategies that gave us fresh perspectives for our discipline-specific discussions.

The real-time recording of discussions means that our notes won't be accidentally lost among papers or luggage during our journeys home. Eventually the notes from our workshop will be organized, polished, and made publicly accessible on the SERC site.

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