The aim of this professional development series is to strengthen our campus-wide capacity to create welcoming, engaging, and academically rigorous classroom environments in which students experience productive classroom discussions on important issues and topics.

Our Mission

Engaging discussions are one of the most rewarding and memorable activities that students and faculty alike can experience in the classroom. Recent research shows that classroom discussion deepens learning, creates community, and helps students form an academic identity.

At the same time, classroom discussion is a challenging pedagogical undertaking. It requires the instructor to orchestrate learning among a group of students who likely do not know each other, come from a diversity of backgrounds, possess a range of political commitments, arrive with varying levels of familiarity with the course material, and have different levels of comfort speaking in class.

Inviting students to discuss also comes with some risk because we don’t know what students are going to say. That unknown means that the instructor will have to be ready to follow one student’s interesting and unexpected line of thought, correct another’s misunderstanding about the material, and also be prepared to respond to any number of possibly off-topic, inappropriate, hostile, or naïve comments.

To address these promises and challenges, the School of Education has designed a professional development program for UW faculty and teaching staff. The program will be offered in both the 2018-19 fall and spring semesters. See the Program Overview page for more details.

Who should apply?

  • At this time, we are only accepting applications from faculty and teaching staff who are teaching a course at UW-Madison during the semester for which they apply. At this time, we are not accepting graduate students.
  • Ideally, applicants should be teaching a course with fewer than 50 students.
  • In order to be eligible, applicants must be available to attend both full-day sessions and one half-day mid-semester session.

When can I apply to the program?

  • Our application for the Spring 2019 program is currently closed. Please check back again for updates on our next cohort.

Dates for the Spring 2019 Cohort

Session Date Time Location
Session 1 Monday, January 14th 9:00am – 4:30pm Education Building (WI Idea Room)
Session 2 Tuesday, January 15th 9:00am – 4:30pm Education Building (WI Idea Room)
Session 3 Friday, March 15th 9:00am – 12:00pm Education Building (WI Idea Room)

Media Highlights

“The Discussion Project was, by far, the best teaching workshop I’ve experienced. Not only did we receive new tools for facilitating discussion, we also got practice using them. The workshop was especially helpful for learning how to hold discussions on controversial political and ethical issues, how and when to share my own views as an instructor, and how to create the right mix of comfort and discomfort in the classroom.” – Andy D., Department of Geography