Philosophy of Educational Workshops

Philosophy of Educational Workshops

An Educational Workshop at Millersville University has two goals: (1) to help teachers obtain new skills (or update skills) and (2) to give teachers strategies, ideas, or techniques for using new learning in their classrooms. The workshops are "in-service" in nature rather than "pre-service" and, therefore, the emphasis is on improving teaching. Pedagogy dominates the content; basic knowledge of the subject matter (for most fields) is assumed. The thrust of the workshops is toward practical knowledge easily transferred to teaching practices but built on theory.

Although the Educational Workshops award three graduate credits, the workshops are not typical graduate courses. Teachers do not use the workshop credits toward a master's degree at MU. In a graduate course, students are expected to do research and to present research findings in a scholarly way: the emphasis is on increasing knowledge in the discipline. Successful completion assists the student in obtaining an advanced degree and, therefore, graded performance evaluation is necessary. This normal standard is modified for workshops, and performance is evaluated simply as pass or fail; the major requirements are full participation and completion of a final assignment.

Millersville faculty who regard themselves as facilitators and work as colleagues with the K-12 teachers are often more effective than faculty who assume the role of dispenser of knowledge to be imparted to students. With the exception of technology courses (where many K-12 teachers have limited skills), the students in the classroom use or teach the same subject area as the Millersville faculty member. Approximately one-third of the registrations in workshops are by teachers who have master's degrees. With varying levels of expertise available in the workshop classroom, teachers can learn from one another as well as from the Millersville faculty member. In fact, often in the past, MU faculty members have indicated they have learned from their teacher-students.

When the Millersville faculty member assumes the role of facilitator, the activities planned for the workshop are varied. Rather than long lectures, several mini lessons are presented during the day. Opportunities are given for sharing among participants--both of current practices and new learning. Faculty assignments are directed toward projects or plans that will be helpful in the teachers' classrooms. Also, if teachers are incorporating contemporary classroom strategies into their teaching (cooperative learning, performance-based evaluation, hands-on learning activities, student-centered classroom, etc.), they will expect to see those strategies in the learning opportunities provided to them by educators at Millersville.

The educational workshops at Millersville historically have been highly accepted by Central Pennsylvania teachers because of their practical nature--teachers take away skills they can use immediately. Repeatedly, teachers' comments have been "The best graduate course I have ever taken." This enthusiasm is based in fervent appreciation for meeting the teachers' need for the relevancy of the educational experience. This philosophy has helped to make Millersville's workshops program both distinctive and respected.