Events and Activities
This page provides resources to help you figure out what events and activities your community can support, and what kinds of events and activities will best support your community. We have a wealth of examples including workshops, monthly discussion groups, coaching and mentoring, and more.
The questions below are intended to be open ended, and give you space to have ideas. If they feel overwhelming, or you don't know where to start, check out the resources further down the page.
Reflect on opportunities
Where can your group hold a workshop or a conference?
As part of another meeting? (MAA section, AMATYC affiliate, etc.)
Can one or more members host at their institution?
What about an online meeting?
Who is in your region who you can invite to share their expertise?
Who has expertise in supporting students from historically marginalized groups? (E.g., students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students)
Who has facilitated workshops on IBL, POGIL, IOI, etc?
Who trains pre-service teachers in complex instruction, culturally responsive teaching, active learning, etc?
What other STEM faculty (or non-STEM faculty!) might have wisdom from their discipline to share?
Who is willing and able to serve as a coach or mentor? (This does not have to be an expert / novice relationship; some of our best experiences have been with peer coaching)
What kinds of ongoing events can your group offer? (Monthly lunch? Book group? Lesson study?)
Reflect on your audience
How often do you want to hold larger workshop or conference events?
What kinds of coaching, mentoring, or classroom visits are your members interested in? (Single visits? Longer term mentoring? In person or online?)
What activities will support instructors who are new to teaching with inquiry?
What activities will nurture and engage instructors who have been teaching with inquiry for years?
We encourage you to dream big and think creatively!
Lots of Examples of Events
We have created (and will continue updating) a table of events and activities that COMMITs have held in the past.
The New England community created a list of all the events they have held in their first two years that is also a very helpful overview of what's possible.
Ideas for and Examples of Smaller Scale Activities
There are so many ways to involve small numbers of practitioners in collaborative learning experiences. You can get an idea of what kinds of ideas are possible by looking at the New England list of events, which includes classroom visits, coaching, reading groups, professional learning communities, one-day workshops, and more. Below we dive into a few ideas, with some accompanying examples.
Zoom lunch / tea meetings
Example from New England:
Every two weeks over Zoom. These were initially organized by the leadership team, but now are grassroots organized with a shared spreadsheet -- anyone can sign up to host, and the host then chooses the time, chooses a theme (if any), and posts a Zoom link to a shared schedule spreadsheet.
Example from IBLINC:
In April of 2020 we initiated a weekly lunch series, encouraging participants to come during their lunch hour and to feel free to bring their lunch. Many participants ate with their cameras off before, while others found a different time to eat so that they could be fully present. But the stage was set for an informal gathering, where you could eat or snack in front of the camera and even take care of children or be interrupted by your pets. These initial meetings didn’t require any agenda: participants started by sharing some news about impacts of the pandemic, especially when there was math or teaching involved. Then we moved into immediate concerns that participants brought up with their newfound teaching modalities. These discussions often resulted in scheduling course observations, which were simplified by the fact that no travel was involved (previously we had tried to create a database of course times and locations for observation, but the community had not yet been successful in establishing a routine of visiting in-person courses).
In the summer we transitioned to monthly lunches. With most people socially isolating and not travelling, these lunches were a way to break the isolation in the summer. We announced topics for these meetings, in advance, such as “Being Better for Black Students and Colleagues and Practicing Equitable Teaching” in June when the country was beginning to face a racial reckoning. Most months the topics were unneeded, as the group already came with much that needed to be discussed and unpacked.
In the fall, after a member survey, we transitioned to two different times to ensure maximum availability to participants. Each meeting was biweekly, so that overall we had one lunch per week. While the 10am Tuesday lunches often only had a couple participants, the noon Thursday lunches were better attended.
These informal lunches are most needed when there is a specific demand. For example, a community with many new practitioners may find a desire for group mentoring or group brainstorming. Our community was new to online teaching, so we had an intense need for group brainstorming to develop new resources. When such a demand is lessened, there will still be some members who desire this sense of camaraderie, group mentoring, or group brainstorming, and indeed it is difficult to know how many without offering these informal events. Targeted programming, such as by announcing a discussion topic in advance, by starting a book group, or by organizing a Japanese Lesson Study, can fill that need for new practitioners while simultaneously continuing to provide a valuable and engaging experience for established community members.
Classroom visits and reflection
Example from New England: Faculty who are willing to be observed sign up on a Google spreadsheet, and potential observers check this list and make individual arrangements to visit and have a conversation afterwards. The community awards a mini-grant for those who complete the visit and follow-up discussion, and write a short reflection for the community blog.
Being observed can be uncomfortable. The goal is not to be perfect. Do what you do and have good conversations about it.
In the virtual environment, the observer can stay with one group or can follow the instructor as she jumps between groups. If the observer is staying with one group, the instructor may want to describe characteristics of the different groups and offer a choice of groups to observe. Or the instructor may want to learn more about the dynamics of a particular group, and ask the observer to stick with that one.
You may want to use an observation protocol (see Further Resources, below)
See also the Equity Issues During a Peer Classroom Visit vignette, below.
Coaching / Mentoring
Example from New England: Experienced faculty serve as coaches. Faculty who want to be coached submit an application to become Faculty Fellows. The Fellows are assigned a mentor. See more details on the New England website.
Example from Upstate New York: Applications were solicited in the Spring/Summer for novice practitioners of inquiry to join an intensive August workshop and then be paired with a mentor for a semester. Intermediate and expert practitioners were given training to serve as a mentor by an external expert who was visiting to give a keynote talk at the Fall MAA Seaway meeting. Mentor-mentee pairs met weekly via phone, videoconference, or (if possible) in person over the course of the semester, to discuss the class, identify possible red flags early on, and provide a range of possibilities to deal with inevitable challenges. When possible, these weekly meetings would occur immediately after one of the scheduled class meetings. Each mentor would visit their mentee's class at least once during the semester, and each mentee would visit their mentor's class at least once. No observation protocol was used, but notes were taken during the observations to stimulate discussion.
Professional Learning Communities
A professional learning community is any small and consistent group of practitioners coming together regularly to learn together about a specific theme.
One example could be a group of instructors meeting regularly to reflect on and plan a common course.
Here is an extensive list of Professional Learning Communities that New England has run.
There is also a detailed blog post about their "Doing Math Together" group.
Another example is a Learning Community for Inclusive Teaching run at the Unversity of Michigan Department of Mathematics.
Small Scale Activity Vignettes
To get you thinking about the implementation of some small scale activities, we created two vignettes to respond to. You can think about these on your own, or they would also make great short activities for a leadership team meeting or a discussion among event facilitators.
Below are some tidbits of wisdom for using events and activities to support the longevity of your COMMIT, and for keeping the event planning process itself sustainable.
Host events at a variety of venues to help bring in new members.
What institutions or venues could you work with to reach new audiences?
Use a co-facilitation model with new facilitators to "train the trainers" and help build capacity.
Who in your community is ready to take on a role that is new to them?
Who is in or near your region and has expertise that you can draw on?
Use a rotating cadre of workshop / event designers to bring in new ideas and avoid burnout
Who in your community has expertise that hasn't been tapped? What events can you organize that draw on this expertise?
Create space for vulnerability and growth.
Informal meetings with one other instructor or in a small group provide opportunities for instructors to be vulnerable, and for the group to work collaboratively to solve problems. When more experienced instructors open up about their own current struggles, it can help keep the conversation from devolving into just question and answer.
Use informal discussion to create lasting community
Example from Iowas-Nebraska-South Dakota: We have begun to systematically include a space for informal discussion, similar our lunch series discussions, to our other events. Our two daylong workshops were moved online, but featured a lunch period where non-facilitators could gather and chat about their courses and unpack the morning’s workshop teachings. (Facilitators were busy unpacking “gots and needs” provided by participants just before lunch, and preparing to for teaching moments in the afternoon.) A panel discussion event was preceded by a meet-and-greet and informal discussion. And a 90-minute equity workshop was extended with a 30-minute lunch.
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
Making events accessible and inclusive
Below are some tidbits of wisdom to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in your events and activities.
Host events at a variety of venues to help include and support a diverse group of faculty.
What institutions or venues could make your events more accessible to more faculty?
Members will attend events if and only if they perceive them to be worthwhile.
What activities are most valuable for faculty from two-year colleges?
What activities are faculty from minority-serving institutions in your region interested in?
Representation matters. It is important to think about diversity in your workshop facilitators.
Who is being invited to plan events and make significant decisions?
Who has high profile speaking or workshop organizing positions? If their demographics are limited, look for the folks you've been skipping over.
What other communities could you reach out to for speakers or facilitators with expertise that is of interest to your membership base?
How will you recruit and select new folks to train as facilitators, through co-facilitation? If you only ask for self-nominations, you'll be missing those most susceptible to imposter syndrome.
To make your events inclusive, they should be accessible! There are many factors to consider for accessibility. Here is a short article from Cornell on making events accessible. Remember: things that may seem inconsequential to you may be significant barriers to others.
Resources for running events centered on equitable and inclusive teaching
Small group discussions: A learning community or discussion group is a great place for participants to deepen their understanding of equitable teaching as well as larger societal and institutional issues surrounding race, gender, and privilege. Choose an article or other resource and have a discussion. No one needs to be an expert, but it’s a good idea to have some ground rules or common expectations about the discussion. Here are some suggestions. Below are places to start looking for readings; this list will be expanding in the coming weeks and months.
An observation protocol that can spark good discussions: Equip
Another idea to spark discussion: a personal equity audit (idea from Ilana Horn): “Go through your roster and see if you can name one strength for each student. If not, what patterns do you notice? How will you identify strengths you have so far not noticed?”
Creators Sara Rezvi and Rosalie Bélanger-Rioux have prepared a series of webinars and related assignments that discuss issues of equity, access, justice, identity, and inclusion. Join the community on MAA Connect to participate in the online discussions, and learn to facilitate conversations in your own community.
There are many amazing speakers you could invite to lead a workshop or discussion on these topics. If you know someone who should be on this list, or would like to be on this list yourself, let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandra Crespo, Michigan State University
Robin Wilson, Cal Poly Pomona
Belin Tsinnajinnie, Santa Fe Community College
Brian Katz, Cal State Longbeach
Darryl Yong, Harvey Mudd College
Adi Adiredja, University of Arizona
Jess Ellis-Hagman, Colorado State University
Gulden Karakok, University of Northern Colorado
Adriana Salerno, Bates College
Nicole Joseph, Vanderbilt University
Kendra Pleasant, Morgan State University
Catherine Good, CUNY
Lily Khadjavi, Loyola Marymount University
Nicole Louie, University of Wisconsin - Madison
COMMIT Network's sortable Table of Past Events
Possible workshop speakers or facilitators
Workshop Material Resources
Discovering the Art of Mathematics workshop ideas and materials: (1) Running Workshops and (2) Using Inquiry for Transformative Change in Teaching
AIBL PRODUCT materials: Contact Stan Yoshinobu for details and access.
Sample email text and/or website copy of workshop description (AMiIBL June 2020 Workshop)
We begin with a simple observation protocol developed by faculty from Wheelock College (now part of Boston University). This is a responsive protocol, in that the focus is totally customized to fit the needs of those involved.
The Reformed Teaching Observations Protocol (RTOP) (Lawson et al., 2002, Sawada et al., 2002) was designed to measure student-centered, constructivist, reformed teaching practices in science and mathematics classrooms in middle schools, high schools, two-year colleges, and universities. Find the manual for this instrument here. To use this instrument reliably for research purposes takes hours of training; we are not suggesting you use it in that way. However, the questions it poses may be good starting points for conversations between observers and observed.
EQUIP is not a peer observation protocol, but an app that allows instructors to collect data on who is participating in their class. This data can help instructors to make intentional changes to increase equity in their classrooms. Read more about the instrument, and the experiences of using it here.
Finally, we encourage groups of interested faculty to pick a common focus and make their own protocol. Example foci: How is student thinking made visible (or not)? How is equity fostered (or not) in the classroom? How do instructors give mathematical authority to students (or not)?) The group can collectively generate hypothetical indicators for practice or focus of interest, and use that as a starting place for observations.