Sunday, June 21, 2015

Crowdsourcing Great Teaching @ the NW Great Teaching Seminar

I attended the NW Great Teaching Seminar this week and it was life changing. This seminar is part of the National Great Teachers Seminar Series. It lasted five days and was held at the amazingly serene and picturesque Menucha retreat in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.  There were over 30 other seminar participants!

Scenic views were readily available
All attendees teach at community colleges, but come from various disciplines. Based on the premise that the real experts on teaching are those who teach, the seminar was led by five amazing individuals: Linda Gerber, Phil Corliss, April Fong, Doug Dickson and Jan Woodcock. Following a "flexibly rigid" format, meals were held at 8 am, 12 and 6 pm daily; the rest of the schedule revolved around these times.

Jan Woodcock
Humor, experience, practical knowledge, active engagement, integrated learning and game-centered teaching made this seminar a life-changing experience for me.

Mingling of ideas
The format also included each of us writing an Innovation paper (first day activities) -- a one-page paper outlining a successful teaching innovation the teacher has implemented and a Problem paper (second day activities) -- describing an ongoing issue the teacher experiences.

Exchanging these writings, we broke up into smaller groups and discussed the innovations and problems, using a Socratic questioning method designed to help the individual sort it out on their own. These papers create a great pool of knowledge, solutions and inspiration.


Emerging themes (throughout the rest of the seminar) -- themes that arose the first two days as we went over the Innovation and Problem papers.

And finally:

Large group discussions: giving teachers a chance to obtain crowd-sourced answers to questions.

Large group discussion
I learned something, literally every two minutes, i.e., teaching students to nod their heads, maintaining student boundaries when it comes to classwork and the importance of trying new things and not being afraid to change it up. Many common solutions, tips, and other techniques carried over from one discipline to the next.
Outdoor discussion in perfect weather
I was struck by the common love and passion for teaching and helping others held by the entire cohort. It was a positive, supportive, and stretching event for all involved.
Opportunities for exchange abounded

Learning opportunities also consisted of small and large group communication and crowd-sourcing answers, games, interpretive dance along with time for recreation and building rapport. Recreation included hikes at Multnomah Falls and surrounding area, bike riding, reading and writing, etc. The meals were fabulous. All in all, this was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, which in turn, created fallow ground for greater learning.

I highly recommend this seminar for educators. The Great Teacher Seminars are available throughout the country. 

Class of 2015

From the GTM website:

“The National Great Teachers Movement is called a ‘movement’ because it is not associated with, nor does it constitute a corporation or an organization of any kind. Thus, it serves no institutional or commercial interests. There is no headquarters or address, and there are no officials, owners, employees or politics. There are no manuals or handbooks, only a few simple guidelines [Editor’s Note: This web connection created by Steve Smith after the 2nd GT colloquium in 2001].

Everything is passed on by oral tradition in order to prevent the development of any form of true believership or fixed procedure, which might come to be followed to the letter and of which the educational profession would soon tire. The many annual Great Teachers Seminars throughout North America, and now in several foreign countries, exist and persist only because of the initiative and selfless ambition of people who want to share the experience with teachers in their own geographic area.”

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