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The Constructivist Based Workshop: An Effective Model For Professional Development Training Activities

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Faculty Development for Distance Learning

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1215.1 - 15.1215.12



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Paper Authors


Susan Donohue The College of New Jersey

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Susan Donohue is an assistant professor of Technological Studies in the School of Engineering at the College of New Jersey.

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Christine Schnittka University of Kentucky

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Christine Schnittka is an assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education at the University of Kentucky.

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Larry Richards University of Virginia

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Larry Richards is a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Constructivist-Based Workshop: An Effective Model for Professional Development Training Activities


Workshops have proven to be an efficient and popular mode of providing opportunities for professional development. However, the effectiveness of our workshop model in accomplishing the goal of providing an environment supportive of statistically significant learning has only recently been assessed. Given that the workshop is consciously modeled on the theoretical framework of our Engineering Teaching Kits (ETKs), the assessment is also a proxy for the assessment of the kits’ model, both of which are based on the pedagogic philosophy of constructivism. Participants at three recent ETK workshops completed pre- and post-workshop self-assessments of their knowledge and level of experience with the engineering, science, and pedagogical concepts upon which the covered ETKs are based. The differences between pre- and post-workshop assessments of knowledge and experience are statistically significant (p <= .007) for a great majority of the concepts tested. This result indicates that active learning strategies can be as powerful a learning experience for adult learners as they are for younger students: a result that can inform the design of effective professional development training activities. This consideration may be especially important when designing workshops for participants with no prior exposure to covered topics.


The workshop is a popular instructional model for professional development training activities. We have presented workshops on our particular instructional product, Engineering Teaching Kits (ETKs), to audiences of P-12 teachers and university faculty and students at various venues. However, the effectiveness of our model, based on the pedagogic philosophy of constructivism, has not been formally assessed until recently. We present a statistical analysis of the assessment results and discuss implications for future workshops in this paper.

Our research thesis is that an instructional model structured as described above is an effective method of delivering content and supporting learning. The research question investigated and reported upon here is therefore:

A professional development workshop model based on constructivist principles provides an environment supportive of a statistically significant increase in learning.

The paper begins with a review of the motivation for developing ETKs. We also provide a brief history of ETK usage and outline its basic design. Next, we discuss the theoretical basis in which ETKs are grounded: constructivism. The specific constructivist-based instructional strategies used in ETKs, guided inquiry and inductive learning, are then described. The basic structure of our workshop model is outlined, and results from three recent workshops are presented and discussed. We end with conclusions and directions for future work.

Donohue, S., & Schnittka, C., & Richards, L. (2010, June), The Constructivist Based Workshop: An Effective Model For Professional Development Training Activities Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16270

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