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

Accounting & Information Systems African Cultural Studies Afro-American Studies Agricultural & Applied Economics American Indian Studies
Anthropology Asian Languages & Cultures Business Center for South Asia Center for the First Year Experience
Chemistry Civil Society & Community Studies Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Communication Arts Community and Environmental Sociology
Composition & Rhetoric Computer Sciences Curriculum & Instruction Dairy Science Economics
Educational Policy Studies Educational Psychology English Gender & Women’s Studies Geography
German, Nordic, & Slavic History Horticulture Human Development and Family Studies Information School
Institute for Regional and International Studies Integrative Biology International Studies Journalism & Mass Communication Kinesiology
Law Liberal Arts & Applied Studies Management and Human Resources Math Medical History and Bioethics
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Nursing Pathobiological Sciences Pharmacy Philosophy
Physics Planning & Landscape Architecture Political Science Psychology Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education
Social Work Soil Science Spanish & Portuguese Wisconsin Collaboratory 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