Fighting Post-Workshop Inaction: An Action Plan

My experience after conferences and professional development workshops usually follows a similar pattern – at the conference, I’m really excited about all of the new ideas that I’ve encountered. I have grand plans of how I’m going to transform my teaching, my work, or hey, even my life, and everything seems possible. But sometime in the after, the enthusiasm dies and I get overwhelmed by the day to day, and the grand plans are forgotten. I may make a few changes, but there’s no real transformation.

But I want to break that pattern with the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute. The things that I’ve learned here aren’t just new and shiny ways to snazz up my instruction; they have the potential to fundamentally transform my mindset, my work, and my approach to teaching – if I let them. So here’s my action plan, my plan to break my past patterns of post-workshop inaction.

While there are so many things that I’m mulling over, here some of the big picture ideas that I’ve taken away from this experience:

  • Bringing change to my institution and teaching starts with me. The wheels of academic bureaucracy turn slowly, and my teaching is constrained by a variety of factors. But I am the common factor in both of those situations, and I can change myself, my mindset, and my practices. [overall]
  • I have to ask questions – for whom and for what am I designing? Perhaps even more deeply, why? And I have to keep asking. [from Design track]
  • How can I support the whole student, especially those who are struggling to meet their basic needs? [Sara Goldrick-Rab’s keynote]
  • We have to embrace the complexities of the critical approach to instructional design (the not-yetness). The approach troubles the relationship between designers (in my case, librarians) and the partners with whom they work, but it’s a mess worth making. [from Design track]
  • Very little is off-limits in the critical instructional design world – student privacy, the past, the future, the learning management system, the syllabus, my design principles, the ways we unintentionally or intentionally oppress our students, our partnerships and collaborations, current local and national politics and the politics of our institutions. [overall]

So what next? I’ll go back to work next week and immediately get pulled into so many things that will demand my attention, and I’m feeling somewhat reluctant to leave the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute and the space that it’s provided me to think about these big questions. At the same time, I’m excited about the fact that I have a place where I can put the big ideas into practice.

I said above that bringing change starts with me, so that’s where my action plan begins. I was captivated by the idea of first identifying my design principles and then questioning them all the time, and I want to start there. I know that if I look at the things and learning experiences I’ve designed, I will see my implicit design principles, and I know that these may not be what I want them to be. From there, I will think about the kind of teacher, librarian, and designer I want to be, how that translates into my design principles, and how I can reconcile my implicit and explicit principles.

I also appreciated Sara Goldrick-Rab’s concrete advice about how we can support students struggling with their basic needs, and I plan to research what’s available for students on my campus and in my community and create a resource guide to make available to students. I also plan to add language to the syllabus for my class to support students who need help meeting their basic needs.

Additionally, I need to self-educate. I have a hefty reading list already (thanks, design track!), but if I don’t make time to actually read, those items will just be added to the long row of shoulda-coulda-wouldas on my mental bookshelf. I plan to read Sara Goldrick-Rab’s book and explore the contents of Hybrid Pedagogy for starters, and from there I will develop a plan to explore other recommendations.

The semester starts at Virginia Tech just a little over two weeks from the time I’m writing this. I have several opportunities to take a critical approach to my teaching: the online class I teach, the one-shot instruction sessions that are already scheduled, and the graduate student orientation sessions that I’m coordinating. Each situation will be different, but in all of them, I can ask the important questions: why am I teaching in this way? Why am I using this technology? Am I letting the technology come first and dictate my pedagogy? Am I finding ways to encourage students’ agency? This will be hard. The fall semester is always busy, so I’ll have to find ways to remind myself to ask these questions.

While the only person I have complete control over is myself, I do coordinate a team of instructional designers and librarians, two of whom also came to the Institute, but several who did not. We’re all under a lot of pressure as we launch some new initiatives and services this semester, and it would be easy to just forget some of this more cerebral stuff. But I think that these pressures make it even more important to ask these questions of ourselves and of our teaching. So I plan to walk my team through the process of thinking through their own design principles as well as the principles and values we have as a team. In all the clutter of our day-to-day work, I don’t want our aspirations to get lost.

Finally, I don’t want to lose the connections that I’ve made here. I’m fortunate that three of my colleagues are here as well, and I’ve also made some great connections. I’ve already scheduled some time with my colleagues to debrief from this week, and I plan to stay engaged in the larger community of the Digital Pedagogy Lab.

It’s hard to gauge the impact of a experience when you’re still having that experience, so I can’t yet say for certain exactly how my teaching and mindset will be different in the coming weeks and months. But here at the close of this week, I’m feeling optimistic. And in a world that seems to be coming unglued, a little optimism can go a long way. 

4 thoughts on “Fighting Post-Workshop Inaction: An Action Plan

  1. Lisa, What a pleasure to have you in the Critical Instructional Design track and to read your post-DPLI reflections. Thank you for writing this. I have a similarly overwhelming reading list and I haven’t quite figured out how to tackle it in a systematic way. If you have any advice on that, I’ll take it! 🙂 I would love to see more about the activities you do with the IDs and Librarians at Virginia Tech; what design principles did they identify and what were the outcomes of intentional efforts to make those principles more transparent? I’ll be staying tuned!

    1. Thanks so much, Amy! I’m planning to have my team share their design principles in a couple of weeks, so we’ll see how it goes! I had a great time thinking of mine, and I hope to write about it on here soon!

  2. Thank you for writing this, Lisa. We all need action plans post-potentially transformative events, and you’re right about the complexities of that, but still the necessity of finding ways to navigate it so we can try to put our learning into practice. I wish you all the best in your journey

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