Engaged Teaching Practices and Validation at Lilly Conference

Learning new ideas was pretty exciting.  Perhaps even better, though was to learn that, based on evidence, the pedagogy you were already employing had been identified as the best practice.


Lilly conference attendees are chattier than most conference goers I’ve encountered.  Sitting at a table for lunch, you quickly start sharing notes on your last session with the perfect stranger next to you.  At one such meeting, I had the chance to explain process writing to a professor of social work.  She had been using staged writing assignments for years, and she was thrilled to learn that this was ‘a thing,” with its own pedagogy and following.


I also learned that one of the practices I use in the classroom is more commonly called ‘Think, Pair, Share,” and then I was told to “Think, Pair, Share” so many times I promptly promised myself I would never use that label with my students.  This is the practice of asking students to pause, chat with a partner, then share ideas with the whole class.  It’s a great way to motivate a silent classroom.


Focusing on what you are doing right will also allow you to survive the onslaught of new ideas gathered at Lilly.  Despite the fact that the flipped classroom trend may cause some of us to feel guilty for not trying it, I was relieved to learn that this student-centered learning strategy is really intended for STEM subjects.  As a writing and literature instructor, I can watch the flipped classroom craze from the sidelines.


Professors come to teaching from such different tracks, and many enter the classroom with little instruction on how to best motivate student learning.  Lilly offers a wonderful opportunity to reassess old teaching habits, and, if we are lucky, simply rename them.


The energy at the Lilly Conference compelled me to rethink much of what I do in the classroom.  That whole process–re-envisioning skills units, redesigning assignments, reworking approaches to student meetings–can be exhausting.  Some of the conference attendees spent their evenings diving into their syllabi and implementing the evidence-based strategies that had been discussed during the day.

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