Blog 35

In this 5 part series, Mandy Frake Mistak from the Teaching Commons provides an insight into her experience running and Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW)  at the University of Lincoln in the UK.

lincoln-cottage lincoln


In November 2015 I, along with my colleagues Dr. Celia Popovic who as you know is the Director of the Teaching Commons here at York, and Dr. John Paul Foxe, who is the Manager, Teaching & Learning in the Teaching and Learning Office at Ryerson University, presented at the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Conference in Cardiff, Wales, in the UK. During our presentation entitled Instructional Skills Workshops: What are they and How do we know they work?, we made a pitch to those in attendance that they try an ISW to experience for themselves this intense three-day peer-based workshop.

During the presentation we provided participants with an overview of the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW), how they are typically run, what previous ISW participants have said about the workshop having taken it, and a brief history of the ISW itself. We shared that the ISW is an internationally recognized certificate program with workshops taking place across the globe. Moreover, it has become a foundational component of teaching improvement programs across most Canadian provinces and territories, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

Upon her return home, Celia received an invitation from her equivalent at the University of Lincoln, England to do an ISW in June 2016. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over details, it was confirmed that Celia and I would facilitate an ISW for a group of 10 colleagues from across their expansive campus. And so it was that on June 4th I left for the beautiful little town of Lincoln for what would be a most memorable and meaningful experience.

After an overnight flight to Frankfurt, a shorter flight to Birmingham where Celia picked me up in our rental car, and a 3 hour drive, we arrived at our stunning little cottage in Lincoln. I remember vividly how the sun was shining down on the cobbled streets, and because we were atop of the hill near the Cathedral and the stereotypical castle that I envision every city in England having; we had a spectacular view of the city landscape. I very quickly forgot about my exhaustion. Who couldn’t thrive on three hours of sleep in a place like this? I was (and still am) so in love with this beautiful town. Around the corner from our cottage were tea rooms galore, tiny shops with delicate knick knacks of all sorts…the kind of knick knacks that I would love to take home but not worth the lecture of how I don’t need any more souvenirs.

In the precious little time we had before having to meet with the director of the teaching and learning centre at the University of Lincoln, we explored. We walked along the castle wall where we learned that it also used to house a prison. Sadly I learned more about the executions that took place along the wall than I would have liked, but the view was still exceptional. There was a gorgeous tribute to those who fought in WW1 and WW2 where thousands of glass poppies had been crafted and were cascading in red waves down the interior of the castle wall. With moments to spare before being picked up, we grabbed an ice cream cone and made our way to the cottage.

Although we would be walking to and from the university, we were able to enjoy some sights from the car window that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Once at the university, we toured the rooms we would be facilitating in, set up our numerous materials, and tried to get a feel for what was in store for us over the next three days. Actually, in retrospect, I think it was more me giving their director an idea of what we had in store for them…

After our meeting and grabbing a bite to eat, we were dropped off at our cottage. There, we continued to review, refine, and prep for the next day (day 1 of the ISW). All of that and a cup of tea later, I was shattered and ready for bed. Tomorrow would be a long day and I was secretly fretting how the participants would respond to the structure and rigour of the workshop and if they would understand my cute Canadian accent. I said “goodnight” to Celia and made my way to bed for a well-deserved sleep

For more information about the ISW at York University and how to register, please visit:

Enjoyed this? Look out for the forthcoming blogs to hear more:

  • 7 Nov ISW blog 2 – ISW Day 1
  • 5 Dec ISW blog 3 – ISW Day 2
  • 9 Jan ISW blog 4 – ISW Day 3
  • 6 Feb ISW blog 5 – Epilogue

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