Workshop: ME Network Mentoring Program – “Teaching in the Liberal Arts”

On March 8th at 10am, IC-bG mentors Dr. Kim Cossey and Dr. Julia Metzker led a workshop for members of the ME mentoring network – a project of the Office of Inclusive Excellence (OIE).  The theme for the workshop was “Course Design for the Liberal Arts: Why do I have to take that class?”

After introductions and a brief description of IC-bG, we began with a focused free writing exercise.  This activity (borrowed from Dr. Mary Magoulick)  is a great way to get students/people into the learning space.

Focused Free Writing Exercise

  1. Ask students to jot the topic at the top of the paper (Ours was “Liberal Arts”
  2. Ask students to write continuously for 10 minutes without stopping, without lifting the pen from the paper.  Assure them nobody will read what they wrote!
  3. Provide a 1 minute warning – it’s difficult to start but once you get into it you don’t want an abrupt end.
  4. As a group (or in small groups) share the best or most notable ideas that came during writing.

This exercise led to some very interesting conversation about the liberal arts and how the bigger ideas of liberal education are practiced in our classrooms, which led very nicely into a Think, Pair, Share Activity where participants identified the “big ideas” that brought them into their discipline and the “take-aways” they want for students that study in their classes but aren’t going into the discipline.


  1. THINK: Students jot down responses to a prompt —
  2. PAIR: Students form pairs or small groups —and discuss what they wrote
  3. SHARE: Students share a “highlight” with the larger group

Each person took these ideas and then drew a picture – yes we got creative – that would communicate to students the important “take-aways” of their subject.  In essence a drawing that answers the question: “Why do I have to take your class?”.

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We wrapped up with an assignment:

  1. Ask your mentor to tell you about one of their favorite teaching moments or activities and ask some probing questions:
    1. Why do you like the activity? What made it a good teaching moment?
    2. How did the activity (or moment) connect to their learning goals for students?
    3. Discuss your Teaching Goals Inventory results with your mentor. What do they say about you as an educator?  Do you see these goals reflected in your teaching activities?
  2. Brainstorm how you could adapt this activity into your own class – this could be a challenge but will help you think about incorporating new ideas into your teaching.

and a reflection:  What single word best describes how you are feeling right now!

At the end of the workshop, Jeanne Sewell dropped in to talk a little bit about the resources IDEAS provides for online teaching.  We also discussed incorporating evaluation of teaching and learning in tenure portfolios that supplement the required end-of-semester surveys.

Resources mentioned in the workshop …

  1. The workshop presentation (pdf) and activity (pdf).
  2. Innovative Course-building Group blog.
  3. American RadioWorks Podcast “Don’t Lecture Me”
  4. Teaching goals inventory. Located at:
  5. Student Assessment of Learning Gains Survey.

Resources for further learning …

  1. McTighe, J. & Wiggins, G. (2004) Understanding by design: professional development workbook, 2nd ed.. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  2. Nilson, L. B. (2007) The graphic syllabus and outcomes map: Communicating your course. San Francisco: Joseey-Bass.
  3. Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Franciso: Jossey-Bass.
  4. Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness (CATME).
  5. AAC&U Value Rubrics.
  6. Angelo, T.A. & Cross, P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  7. Blaich, C. and Wise, K. (2011). From Gathering to Using Assessment Result: Lessons From the Wabash National Study. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Available online at:
  8. Field-tested learning assessment guide (FLAG).

About Dr. J. Metzker

I believe in the power of a liberal education to transform individuals and society. I am currently the Executive Director of the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence. Formerly, I led a community engagement initiative and held a full professorship in chemistry at a public liberal arts university. I am a proud product of The Evergreen State College.
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