Teaching Strategies and Faculty Workshops


By now we’ve run workshops involving faculty from over 150 universities and colleges.   Our early formats failed.  


We started out the logical way, with educational theory and group discussion about course objectives.   Most faculty, however, had little patience for Bloom’s Taxonomy or Gardner’s Theories of Multiple Intelligence.   These were not the theories of their discipline!  This is not what they had come to learn.  They wanted to understand and master uses of the new technology.   After a morning of theory, many would not return from lunch.  


So, for a brief time our workshops were started with lessons on how to use the comment function within Microsoft word, how to create a spreadsheet, how to upload a web page.  This second format was even less successful than the first.   The approach was shallow.  Faculty wanted substance, not mere technique.


Now, with much greater success, we start with teaching strategies.   We still encourage participants to link course redesign with learning theory, but at the end of the day.


We came to focus upon five teaching strategies by analyzing how 150 professors at 45 of America’s most wired campuses use technology to enhance their teaching.  Writing in Interactive Learning and Teaching with Technology, many of these professors were searching for additional ways to—


  1. Increase interaction, especially by augmenting the quality of communication between themselves and their students.
  2. Increase depth of thought via controversy and debate
  3. Increase relevance by involving “outside” experts
  4. Customize learning opportunities (different strokes for different folks)
  5. Increase collaboration among students


Computers seemed to offer additional options for pursuing these strategies.  Their courses were not redesigned to use computers.  Instead their courses were redesigned to increase interaction, controversy and debate, the use of adjuncts, collaboration, and multiple means of learning.   The incentive for considering redesign came from an awareness that many new possibilities were being presented by the computer.   The outcome of the redesign process included both computer-enhanced alternatives and changes that did not involve the computer.


In different months throughout the upcoming academic year I plan to devote a full column to each of these strategies---to interaction, collaboration, controversy and debate, use of outside expertise, and different strokes for different folks.  Although I already have a full set of examples, these columns would be greatly enriched by your experience.  Let me urge that you write me at brown@wfu.edu about how you are using technology to increase interaction, or to increase controversy and debate, etc.


Today we start workshops by asking participants to accept, without much examination, the premise that they will want to use technology for many of the same reasons that our 150 professorial essayists use it.   Participants then redesign their courses in order to increase interaction, collaboration, etc.    They learn some of the base techniques for increasing interaction, collaboration, etc.    Then, after the course has been redesigned in skeletal form, they are asked to judge if their changes make sense in terms of learning theory and theories in their own discipline.