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Creating Small Interactive Teaching Development Groups

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.334.1 - 24.334.6



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Paper Authors


Margret Hjalmarson George Mason University

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Dr. Margret Hjalmarson is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University. Her research interests include engineering faculty development, task design and mathematics education.

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Jill K. Nelson George Mason University

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Creating Small Interactive Teaching Development GroupsThere has been a long-standing gap between research about interactive teaching strategiesand the implementation of those strategies in classrooms. Interactive teaching, for ourpurposes, can include almost any strategy that can support instructors shifting from onlylecturing toward including more active participation in class sessions. For example,having students solve problems in class is a strategy increasing in prominence with theadvent of the “flipped” classroom. We recognize that these shifts in format may bechallenging for instructors who do not have models for interactive instruction in theirown background. In addition, it is challenging to know where to start when creating amore interactive classroom even when the benefits may be evident in terms of students’learning and overall experience. It is especially difficult without support from colleaguesin the department who can share their successes and challenges with interactive teaching.This paper addresses a strategy faculty can use to create teaching development groups fordiscussion, learning and implementation of more interactive teaching. We have workedwith engineering faculty at five institutions to develop a structure for ongoing teachingdevelopment groups to support interactive teaching strategies. These groups include thefollowing characteristics: small, ongoing, needs driven, and scaffolded. Small groups fordiscussion create a supportive environment for both discussing results from research andother resources as well as examining an individual’s current teaching strategies. Theongoing group structure shifts from a workshop model for sharing strategies toward anongoing conversation that can provide support and feedback over time as instructors trynew strategies in their classrooms. Needs driven groups encourage faculty to select astrategy they see as valuable and receive ongoing feedback from their peers about theparticular teaching strategy under implementation.Scaffolding for the group takes two forms: expertise of the facilitator and outsideresources. An important aspect of the group is finding a facilitator who can both organizethe meetings (ideally, weekly or biweekly) and share resources with the group. Thefacilitator should be someone who is familiar with interactive teaching and who is activein reflecting about their own teaching and trying new strategies. In addition to thefacilitator’s knowledge, the use of outside resources provides research-based informationand keeps the conversation focused on teaching. For example, some of our groups usedHow Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles (Ambrose, 2010) to fosterdiscussion and keep the group focused on developing their teaching practice. Other booksor online videos may also be used as sources for new strategies. Overall, the groupsshould be small enough to foster discussion (4-6 people) and provide a supportiveenvironment. The conversation should focus on ways to improve teaching that arise outof the needs identified by the group members. In addition, the ongoing nature of thegroups should support continued development over a long period to encourageimplementation.Ambrose, S. (2010). How learning works  : Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hjalmarson, M., & Nelson, J. K. (2014, June), Creating Small Interactive Teaching Development Groups Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20225

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