Hopes & Expectations for Active Teaching Labs

A significant value of Labs is often just listening to participants and understanding what their concerns are. Then we bring those back to inform our work and try to address them in future sessions. To help make each lab a success, we’ve developed the following hopes and expectations.

Conversations on Improving Teaching & Learning

Learning Science research confirms the premise of active learning — that the more students reflect together on their experiences, the more significant their learning is. Instructors are learners too, and gain the same benefits from deep conversations on teaching practice as they continue to learn about teaching. A primary aim of Labs is to foster inquiry, reflection, and subsequent improvement of instructors’ own authentic campus teaching practices.

Honor Participant Voices

Labs are not expert-driven presentations or panel discussions. Labs provide a framework for equal footing, where all participants have a voice. We strive for sessions where every participant’s experiences and areas of expertise are honored and inform discussions on good teaching practice. We try to create and maintain an environment where participants empathize with each other and honor their stories as valid, and as part of what can lead to a collaborative set of potential solutions. When people only see “perfect” courses or teaching practices, they can feel paralyzed by self-doubt. By highlighting stories of people whose practice looks like their own (and is improving), they can see a path to change.

Resources for Many

Since Labs are discussions that emerge from participant questions and issues rather than presentations, we try to anticipate questions and pre-fill Activity Sheets with evidence-based resources and concrete teaching practices on the theme to meet different levels of participants. This includes easy things to try for novices, medium things for those with some familiarity, and challenges for the experts who come to try to solve.

Theme Experts

In the conversations, we love having “ringers” as participants who can address specific questions that arise that fall outside of what we anticipated on the Activity Sheets, and/or that fall outside of what the facilitators can answer. So, rather than sharing a set of slides during the session, or doing a short talk, we encourage thematic experts to jump in whenever there’s a question or topic to which they can contribute!

Real-World Constraints

We recognize that in addition to effective research-based teaching practices, there are real world constraints, policies, and human behaviors in play. We actively seek and encourage knowledgeable voices who can address these issues. We do our best to navigate rather than ignore these realities, and to help people find the best solutions that work for their contexts.


The “prep-work” would simply be to help facilitators anticipate questions and provide resources on the Activity Sheet to address those anticipated questions. Then at the Lab, participants can help address the questions and issues that we missed.