14 Guidelines for Successful Higher Ed Faculty Workshops

One question that comes up quite often with our oversight of all things under our auspices is: how involved should we as the Executive Committee be over presentations and workshops that occur under our general center for teaching & learning (CTL) banner or that specifically of the Faculty Innovators? One school of thought says treat them like your children who have to be given a certain amount of latitude to even fail, while another point of view claims that any event labelled as coming from us reflects upon us, and if it looks bad, we look bad.

As we evolve our programs, we try to offer more and more guidance to those who in essence represent us. While the Faculty Innovators receive more basic training in everything from conducting workshops to consulting with faculty clients, we provide even volunteers with some basic presentation guidelines that are a living document. Every time we observe a workshop, we seem to add to or tweak our document.

Here are some fundamental guidelines:

  1. In your presentation, no matter your content the main thing you should hope to accomplish is to be an effective model for good teaching. Everything you do should reflect a pedagogical best practice.
  2. In that vein, plan for an interactive workshop, not a PowerPoint-supported lecture.
  3. Any instructions, directions, or even presentation of fundamental and powerful concepts should take no more than five minutes.
  4. Utilize two to three exercises that your audience can undertake. You can employ reflection, pair-and-share, or even larger group work. An alternative might be to utilize a single case study that covers your major points.
  5. Whatever exercises your audience performs, be sure to plan for a report-out and reaction (by you and the other participants) to whatever is reported. Your audience must be made to believe that their input matters.
  6. Where appropriate, intentionally utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy, and make your audience understand not only that you are using it, but why.
  7. Structure your presentation around the basic classroom organizational pattern of C.R.I.S.P.:
  • Contextualize: at the beginning make sure your audience is provided with the fundamental and powerful concepts (FPCs) you intend to cover. Clearly outline your Faculty Learning Objectives (FLOs) for the session. Demonstrate quickly why these FPCs are important to the audience.
  • Review: tie your subject to materials previously covered in earlier sessions or are university themes. We, for instance, use the aegis of the Teaching & Learning Innovations Series (TLI), and we often tie to our basic campus milestones (e.g., New Faculty Orientation, the Provost’s Speaker Series, Scholarship Week, the Pedagogicon). The key notion here is that new knowledge is built on old.
  • Iterate: make certain your fundamental and powerful concepts come up a few times and in different ways (e.g., PowerPoint, pair-and-share, or even Q & A).
  • Summarize: Make certain you stop your workshop five minutes before the allotted time period ends so that you can simplify, synthesize, and strategize.
  • Preview: if possible, know what event comes next in the series so that you can tie it to what you have done.
  1. As with your own classes, arrive early and stay afterwards. Use the time to build rapport, answer questions, and even plant intellectual seeds.
  2. Make the workshop entertaining. Be interesting and humorous. While some educational jargon is unavoidable, balance it with cultural and pop cultural allusions.
  3. Use the Mentor from the Middle methodology. Rather than stay at the front of the class, mingle with your audience whether you are providing information or helping them with their exercises.
  4. Communicate effectively. Speak clearly and slowly. Make eye contact. Show everyone your face. If you know some of your colleagues in the audience, use their names.
  5. Make sure you provide a survey for your participants. CTLs should develop such an evaluation rubric as well as a methodology for transmitting it to your audience (e.g., hand out or send electronically).
  6. Offer handouts during the session and when possible provide them electronically to participants. CTLs should develop repositories where such documents can be easily located.
  7. Finally, the best workshops do not try to cover a broad area, but focus on a single, important aspect of a larger concern. They center on a fundamental and powerful concept that can be presented by a facilitator and applied by an audience.

Sweet, C. & Blythe, H. (2008). Keeping your classroom C.R.I.S.P. NEA Higher Education Advocate, 26(2), 5-8.



Russell CarpenterDr. Russell Carpenter is director of the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and Program Director of the Minor in Applied Creative Thinking at Eastern Kentucky University. He is also Assistant Professor of English. Dr. Carpenter has published on the topic of creative thinking, among other areas, including two texts by New Forums Press. In addition, he has taught courses in creative thinking in EKU’s Minor in Applied Creative Thinking, which was featured in the New York Times in February 2014. Meet Russell.