TRAD’s App Supports Inclusive Discussions in the Classroom

Fri May 11, 2018

UW-Madison School of Education’s “The Discussion Project” was featured in a February issue of the Inside UW-Madison newsletter to staff and The Weekly newsletter to students. The article titled “‘The Discussion Project’ cultivates engaging, welcoming classroom conversations across campus” explained how the multi-session training supports instructors seeking to create classroom discussions that are “engaging, welcoming, and academically rigorous.” To better support those interactions, the School of Education began working with Teaching & Research Application Development (TRAD) last fall to develop a technical solution for dividing students into groups.

Inspired by Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf and Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s call for more programs that further inclusivity, Paula McAvoy, the program director for the Center for Ethics and Education, developed the project in collaboration with Diana Hess, Dean of the School of Education.

Working in partnership with Paula McAvoy, TRAD developed a prototype web application that allows instructors to survey students about their attitudes toward discussion topics and collect basic demographic information. Using the collected responses, instructors can use the web application to distribute students into discussion groups that maximize diversity. The School of Education and TRAD plan to enhance the grouping, including the addition of a survey-building interface. Another future enhancement is a feature that will allow instructors to survey students and create discussion groups in real-time.

“With a growing movement away from lecture-based courses, there is clearly a need for tools that support instructors and students in learning environments such as discussion-based and blended classrooms,” said Garrett Smith, the lead TRAD developer.

“This student grouping application provides a fairly simple but very effective way to support group discussion in classrooms,” Garrett explained. “We’re looking forward to the next steps of this project and other opportunities to support rich student interaction.”

With their technical expertise, collaboration-focused working style and dedication to the UW-Madison mission, TRAD is well-situated to meet the evolving teaching and learning needs of campus. If you’re interested in discussing potential projects, contact DoIT Academic Technology via email.


Photos by Brian Ebner