Blog 40

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.

cathedral lincoln-harbour lincoln-uni lincoln steep-hill

ISW blog 2 – ISW Day 1

In my previous blog entry, I shared about my travels to Lincoln, UK, and our prep work for the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) that Celia and I were there to facilitate. On this, day 1 of the ISW, we rose early to a beautiful sun-shiny day, enjoyed a cup of tea, and then walked a beautiful walk downhill to the University. Much to my relief, everything was as we’d left it the night before as we had visited our 4 classrooms and set up as much as we could. During our walk it was near impossible to keep from stopping and trying to take in all the sights. The University of Lincoln is set on the waterfront and next to a small harbour. There were lots of boats on the glistening water, all of which were reflected off of the large windows of the restaurants and shops that surrounded the area. It is a stunning place and I feel very grateful to have been.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had butterflies. Although I’ve travelled through England and Scotland extensively, teaching in this context is very different and I was nervous. In fact, I had the same jitters that I usually have on the first day of term. Although my butterflies accompanied throughout most of the morning, they dissipated somewhat as participants arrived. Many with warm smiles, putting me at ease, and others who looked even more nervous than I (which also put me at ease)! Why shouldn’t they be nervous too? These 10 individuals had little to no idea what they were in for, despite the fact that I had been in contact with each one individually to provide an overview of the workshop and what would be required of them on a daily basis. Because I had been in contact with each one, it was merely a fact of putting the right name to the correct face upon meeting them face-to-face. With such a small group it was easy to remember all of their names which significantly aided in the creation of a more relaxing and friendly environment. This was absolutely a necessity due to the intensive and dissonant nature of the ISW.

With more introductions and an overview of the workshop complete, we asked the participants to engage in an ice breaker activity. This is something that we often do in our workshops, I always do so in some form in my classroom, but the imperative of doing such an activity in this setting was critical. These participants, living up to a British stereotype of having impeccable manners, did everything asked of them. I would begin to notice a pattern over the course of the workshop: everyone would participate and then question and critique my modus operandi after the fact. These critiques offered opportunities to debrief the what and why of the ISW and the structure that Celia and I as facilitators were following. It invigorated and deepened our collective experience of the workshop on the whole – despite my having to repeat at nauseum “trust the process”.

Day 1 further consisted of group sessions and mini-lessons whereby the participants were divided into 2 groups of five and taught 10-minute lessons to each other. Immediately following each lesson, the learners (aka the participants who did not teach that particular lesson but were students in it) provided both written and oral feedback directly to the instructor. The questions are guided and posed by the facilitator. I was pleased that my group was invested despite there being some struggles and challenges. As is typical, some instructors were not finished their lesson within the 10-minute timeframe, others were shy when it came to providing feedback. Managing and negotiating these occurrences are the responsibility of the facilitator. In truth, I was pleased to see some of them confront some of these challenges because it demonstrated that the process was already at work and that the participants themselves were going to get more out of this experience than I initially anticipated.

After an exceptionally long day (we frontloaded this first day purposefully) we said goodnight to our participants and began to set up for day 2. As ISW facilitators our day does not end when the participants leave. As they go home to review their feedback and prepare or develop their mini-lessons for day 2, we are busy reviewing feedback from day 1, figuring how we can (and if appropriate) respond meaningfully in day 2. This debriefing process of what is working, what isn’t, what do we need to change and how are we going to do it, is a very lengthy process and took Celia and I well into the night. As such we thought it best to make our way back up to our cottage. This meant climbing up the monstrosity of a hill that we so many hours ago had climbed down. It was lovely never the less and made our return to the cottage ever-more sweet as we had conquered the hill and cobbles. Triumph! We did make a stop into Tesco’s (a little shop) for some snacks as it was clear that we were not going to have time to dine that night…far too much to do for day 2!

Day 1 was great. Overall, I was pleased with their reception of the ISW and that we had some opportunity to chat and reflect alongside our participants. It was indeed a long night in planning and revisiting our original lesson plans for day 2 but was time well invested. Day 2 is often a difficult day for many reasons and we needed to be ready for anything!

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

  • 3 Oct ISW blog 1 – Prologue
  • 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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