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Workshop courses at the University of Rochester have recently expanded to included courses in the Humanities.

Workshop

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is a Workshop?
A Workshop is a group of 6-10 students in a specific course that meets weekly for about two hours outside of lecture. The facilitator is a student who has already been successful in the course and is concurrently attending leader training. During Workshop, students solve challenging problems together to help learn the material thoroughly and to prepare for their course exams.
Why use students to lead Workshops?  They aren't professors!
Student leaders are not teachers, they are facilitators or guides to learning. The benefit of employing student leaders is their proximity to their own experience in mastering the course material. Student leaders understand the difficulties students have with the learning the concepts and problem solving techniques in the course because they so recently completed this process themselves. Also, Workshop participants often find it easier to practice with new material--when making mistakes is inevitable--in front of a near peer. 
Do Workshops use answer keys?
Typically not. Answer keys, while they can seem like a boon in the moment, are often false friends in the long run.  An essential goal of the Workshop is for all students in the group to feel that their answers make sense by the end of the session. Copying down answers supplied by someone else undermines this "sense making" process. For those who are fans of answer keys, there are plenty of “right answers” available in any course (just look in the back of the text, for example). In the professional world, however, answer keys are seldom available--and often there are many right answers to a given problem.
How are leaders compensated?
Leaders typically receive pay for facilitating Workshops and course credit for participating in the leader training seminar.  In addition, leaders can be eligible for earning the Citation for Achievement in College Leadership.
Are Workshops only for undergraduates?
While Workshops are mainly for undergraduates they have expanded to The Simon Business School and The School of Nursing.

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Student Questions

Why would I want to be a Workshop participant?
As a member of a Workshop, students can improve their learning by active engagement in solving the Workshop problems with their peers. Ongoing research demonstrates that students who participate in Workshops are more likely to stay in the course and earn better grades.  On surveys, students often rate the Workshop as one of the most valuable components of the course.
What should I do as a Workshop participant?
Workshops are designed to help students put into practice what they have just learned in the course. Students aren't expected to do the Workshop problems ahead of time.  They are expected, however, to have prepared well for these sessions by attending lectures and completing the course readings and related assignments.  In the Workshop sessions themselves, students get the most out of the experience if they don't hang back, but instead jump right into the discussion.  It is ok to make mistakes in Workshops; that is how learning happens.
What if I think a particular class needs a Workshop?
Students can talk to the course instructor professor, the department chair, or anyone who uses Workshops for their course.  You may also wish to contact our Study Group program to see if another peer-group study option might be available for the course.
What’s in it for me to be a Workshop leader?
Being a Workshop leader provides a valuable leadership experience, an opportunity to work closely with faculty, and a venue for achieving greater fluency in the subject. Leaders also receive recognition through course credit (in most cases), financial compensation, and eligibility for the Citation for Achievement in College Leadership (see above). Former leaders have reported that this experience has proven to be an asset as they apply to graduate school, medical school, and employment.
How can I become a Workshop leader?
Students may ask instructors of Workshop courses for an application to be a leader in a subsequent semester.  As a rule, this is a competitive process; leaders are selected from those who have excelled in the course.  Typically, applicants participate in interviews organized by the professor of the course and learning specialists from CETL.
What is leader training all about?
Helping others learn difficult material is challenging work, so leader training is essential for effective Workshops. Leader training at the UR is organized in a well-thought out curriculum designed to give leaders the tools they need to do a good job.  Training takes place in weekly meetings of leaders,  the course faculty member,  and a learning specialist. During leader training, peer leaders learn and practice with the basics of learning theory, group dynamics, cultural competence, problem-solving techniques, and other useful topics. They also have the opportunity each week to practice with the Workshop problems themselves again. Leaders submit weekly journals and often complete an end-of-semester research project.
Can I be a Workshop leader more than once?
Yes. It is not uncommon to serve as a leader for more than one semester.

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Faculty Questions

Why should I consider Workshops for my course?
Faculty report that their work in implementing Workshops has proven to be a good investment.  They value the ongoing interaction with their student leaders and the significant improvement in student outcomes.
What are the essential components of a Workshop?
While the model is a flexible one that can be adapted for a range of course formats, there are several elements that are critical to the success of Workshops:
  1. Workshop sessions and materials need to be well integrated into the course as a whole. 
  2. Faculty need to be closely involved with the learning specialist and student leaders.
  3. The student leaders must be carefully chosen and supported.
  4. Workshop materials must be appropriately challenging and encourage active group learning; the problems need to be viewed as important for success in the course.
  5. Logistics need to be carefully addressed, including group size, location, time, and teaching resources.
How do I recruit Workshop leaders?
Professors are advised to seek out students who have performed well in their courses and encourage them to apply for a leader position.
Where can I find out more about Workshops and/or how I could adapt Workshops for my course?
Contact any of our instructors or staff members: Vicki RothTerry Platt, Robin Frye or Nic Hammond.

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