What have we learned?

In the first two years of The Discussion Project, survey results have consistently shown that participants deepen their knowledge about what discussion is and the characteristics of good discussion. Participants report feeling better able to prepare students for discussion and for treating discussion as an academic skill that can be taught and assessed. Participants enjoy the hands-on approach to the training, and they greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss teaching and learning with colleagues from across campus.

Where are we headed?

The Discussion Project has received a two-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to study how the Discussion Project training affects participants’ instructional practice and how their students experience and learn from discussions in class. As part of the study, we are expanding from two to six cohorts per year, and in the second year of the study, we will investigate how well The Discussion Project translates to campuses that differ from UW–Madison. The main questions for the study include:

  1. How do The Discussion Project training and resources affect instructors’ abilities to create and facilitate high-quality classroom discussion?
  2. How does The Discussion Project affect how students experience and learn from discussions in courses taught by instructors trained by The Discussion Project?
  3. What are the best mechanisms to both scale The Discussion Project and extend it to other institutions of higher education (IHEs) with demographically different students than UW–Madison (the institution in which it was developed)?

Affiliation of Participants


Academic Affairs  Accounting & Information Systems African Cultural Studies Agricultural & Applied Economics American Indian Studies Anthropology Art History
Asian Languages & Cultures Bacteriology  Biochemistry Biocore Biological Systems Engineering Biostatistics & Medical Informants Botany 
Center for South Asia Center for the First Year Experience Chemistry Civil Society & Community Studies Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Collaborative for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning Communication Arts
Composition & Rhetoric Computer Sciences Curriculum & Instruction Dairy Science Dance Delta Program  Economics 
Education Leadership & Policy Analysis  Educational Policy Studies Educational Psychology Electrical Engineering  English  Entomology Food Science
Gender & Women’s Studies Genetics Geography  German, Nordic, & Slavic History Horticulture Human Development and Family Studies
Information School Institute for Regional and International Studies International Studies Journalism & Mass Communication Kinesiology Labor Education Law
Liberal Arts & Applied Studies Management and Human Resources Math Mechanical Engineering Medical History and Bioethics Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Nursing
Nutritional Sciences Pathobiological Sciences Pharmacy Philosophy Physics Planning & Landscape Architecture Political Science
Population Health Sciences Psychology Religious Studies Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education Social Work Sociology Soil Science
Spanish & Portuguese Wisconsin Collaboration for Enhanced Learning Writing Fellows Program

“This is probably the most valuable teaching-centric experience I’ve had in my 11 years on campus.”
– Catherine Arnott Smith, Associate Professor, iSchool