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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. See the Program Overview page for more details.

Note: if you are visiting this page and are at an institution other that UW-Madison and would like The Discussion Project to come to your campus, please go to our nonprofit website

Professor Kathy Cramer

Political Science, UW-Madison


I was fortunate to take part in your training last month. I am not exaggerating when I say it has changed my life. I am teaching a 15-person and a 50-person undergraduate course this term, and I am using the skills you taught me each class session. It has made me think differently about my teaching and I am quite sure the students’ experience is all the better for it. Thank you! You all are providing a fantastic service.

Discussion Project Alumni Receive Distinguished Teaching Awards

Congratulations to the following Discussion Project alumni for receiving a Distinguished Teaching Award! For more information about Distinguished Teaching Awards, visit the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty’s website.

Ajay Sethi Catalina Toma Diego Roman Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen Jeremy Morris Jerome Camal Joshua Calhoun
Juan Egea Judith Houck Kassem Fawaz Kate Vieira Lori Lopez Lyn Van Swol Majid Sarmadi
Margaret Kerr Michael Thornton Mitra Sharafi Nancy Marshall Rosemary Russ Sara McKinnon Yoshiko Herrera

Affiliation of Participants: 119 Departments and Programs

Accounting and Information Systems Aerospace Studies (Air Force ROTC) African Cultural Studies African Studies Program Afro-American Studies Agricultural and Applied Economics Agroecology
American Indian Studies Animal Sciences Anthropology Art Art History Asian Languages and Cultures
Asian Studies—Center for South Asian Studies
Astronomy Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Bacteriology Biochemistry Biocore Biological Systems Engineering Biology
Biomedical Engineering Biostatistics and Medical Informatics Botany Business Cell and Regenerative Biology Center for Asian Studies—South Asian Studies
Chemical and Biological Engineering
Chemistry Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies Civil and Environmental Engineering Civil Society and Community Studies Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Communication Arts
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Community and Environmental Sociology Computer Sciences Consumer Science Continuing Studies Counseling Psychology Curriculum and Instruction Dairy Science
Dance Design Studies Economics Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Educational Policy Studies Educational Psychology
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Engineering Physics English Entomology Family Medicine Finance, Investment and Banking Food Science
Forest and Wildlife Ecology
French and Italian Gender and Women’s Studies Genetics Geography Geoscience German, Nordic, and Slavic History
History of Science, Medicine, and Technology Horticulture Human Development and Family Studies Integrated Liberal Studies Integrative Biology Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies International Studies
Jewish Studies Journalism and Mass Communication Kinesiology Language Sciences Law Legal Studies
Letters & Science Honors Program
Library and Information Studies Life Sciences Communication Management and Human Resources Marketing Materials Science and Engineering Mathematics Mechanical Engineering
Medical History and Bioethics Medical Physics Medicine Military Science (Army ROTC) Music Naval Science (Naval ROTC)
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Nursing Nutritional Sciences Occupational Therapy Operations and Information Management Pathobiological Sciences Pediatrics Pharmacy
Philosophy Physical Therapy Physics Planning and Landscape Architecture Plant Pathology Political Science
Population Health Sciences
Psychology Public Affairs Radiology Real Estate and Urban Land Economics Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education Religious Studies
Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Social Work Sociology Soil Science Spanish and Portuguese Special Education Statistics
Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement