Planning an academic development workshop with GAI Claude

“Hi Claude, I want to plan a 45 minute workshop for university teachers with the title “how do I cultivate joy, passion, and purpose in my teaching, and how do I share it with my students?”. The goal is for the participants to leave the workshop feeling a renewed sense of joy, passion, and purpose going into their future teaching, and I also want them to be able to articulate what it is that brings them feelings of joy, passion, and purpose in their teaching. Ideally, they will have strategies for how to cultivate those feelings, and have ideas on how to share that with their students.

In the workshop I want teachers to spend about equal amounts of time on each part of the question, and I want them to both reflect for themselves and discuss with a partner or in small groups. I also want the results of the workshop documented, on Menti as well as in individual notes. Maybe using a liberating structure to share and secure results could also be an idea.

Please give me a suggested outline for the workshop, including what materials I need to prepare, what to say in the brief introduction, what prompts to give to the participants, and what to say in the wrap-up? Thanks!”

Ever since I started reading Mark Carrigan’s blog, I have been curious about using Claude the way he describes, to blog at it and get reactions on ideas. So today I decided to try! I initially wrote the prompt above, to get the “conversation” started. I have played quite a bit with ChatGPT4o and Copilot before and was not super impressed, but having read that Claude is different, seems to have a different “personality”, why not try?

And it turns out, responding to Claude’s response in order to fine-tune its workshop plan forced me be more explicit about a couple of things that were probably not entirely clear in my head, and definitely not clear in my prompt, before, e.g.

  • When Claude’s first response was very focussed on joy, purpose, and passion related to the specific content of each individual lecture and I asked for arguments for and against that vs relating to the general discipline, Claude gave good arguments for both and concluded “have teachers identify joy/passion/purpose sources for both the specific lessons AND the overall subject area. This allows them to toggle between tapping into both as appropriate to maximize engagement. But the core goal is ensuring students genuinely perceive their teacher’s enthusiasm.” which sounds reasonable, and worth explicitly including in the instructions!
  • After asking for more prompts to make it easier to start reflecting during the workshop, Claude responded “… if they’re struggling to start the reflections, you could share a brief personal example for each – a joyful teaching moment, what fuels your passion, how a student impacted your sense of purpose. Modeling vulnerability often opens the door for others.” I am typically (over)sharing as a teacher, and was trying to compensate for that and therefore leaning against sharing my own examples (I mean they can come and read my blog?), but now I am reconsidering. I should at least have personal examples up my sleeve!
  • When I wrote the first reaction blog post to the reflection prompt, I mostly thought about my own joy, passion, and purpose during teaching. But looking at the prompts Claude suggested for reflection during the workshop, they were a lot more about general joy, purpose, passion in the classroom, felt by everybody, not “just” the teacher. So I asked Claude for pros and cons of both options, and it responded with “self-reflection is key”, and “modeling is powerful”. It also said that then, teacher’s and students’ emotions will feed off of each other, and that students will buy in if the teacher is authentic. I asked what Claude would say to someone who might argue that the focus on teachers goes against the student-centered approach to teaching we are aiming at, and it told me that teacher well-being is essential, emotions are contagious, authenticity is powerful, and role-modeling important. I was quite pleased that it actually argued for that point rather than just telling me “oh you are right, we shouldn’t do that”
  • I asked what teachers would expect when attending a workshop called “how do I cultivate joy, passion, and purpose in my teaching, and how do I share it with my students?”, and here, in addition to reflection, the focus was on practical tips and skill development. Which I kinda expected, but it’s a useful reminder that maybe “just” reflecting will not be perceived as a good use of someone’s lunch break. However, trying to get Claude to give me some concrete strategies didn’t really go anywhere much beyond “pause, breathe, reminisce about how you first got excited about the topic” and “play music at the start of classes to set an upbeat tone”. Not quite satisfying…

I then asked Claude to write a paragraph advertising the workshop, which turned out sounding awesome but also way beyond what I think anyone can deliver in 45 minutes. So I asked again for an outline of the workshop that we had now discussed a bit more, and after some iterations, now the three main phases we “agree” on are about “finding / reconnecting with your spark”, “sustaining your fire”, and “sharing your spark”. And maybe that is actually a better structure, rather than thinking about joy, passion, and purpose separately.

What I am thinking now is that I will develop handouts with prompts for the three phases, making it clear that

  • “finding / reconnecting your spark” is about joy, passion, and purpose the teacher feels towards the subject of a specific class, the discipline more generally, interactions with students, things students will be able to do based on attending this class, …
  • “sustaining your fire” is about self-care strategies and routines that help teachers create and/or experience (more) situations where they feel joy, passion, and purpose
  • “sharing your spark” is about how to be authentic with students, and finding instructional strategies where students can see the teachers’ joy, passion, and purpose, and might experience it themselves, too.

Then in each of the three phases, there will be some time for individual thinking, some discussions with a partner, and possibly some sharing of results via menti or a similar tool.

I also asked Claude to include a Liberating Structure in this workshop, knowing that 45 minutes is NOT a lot of time, and that I myself couldn’t come up with a way to include anything other than think-pair-(quadruple-)share, which I was already planning on doing. But maybe that’s ok!

So long story short: If I had to give that workshop right now, I would be happy with the structure above and also the reflection prompts that Claude and I came up with. I do not share them here yet because I only have to give the workshop after the summer, so I have more time to think about them, and want to use that time. Also, I am pondering including some reflection task that teachers can do before they even come to the seminar, I think that would be really good (and in line with all we always teach…). Claude gave me a lot of ideas for that task that were all waaay too work-intensive (and at this point, I am still discussing whether I will even be allowed to send out something beforehand, because that would require sign-up which we don’t usually do for that specific format…). But one idea that I loved was to ask teachers to bring an artefact that symbolises to them the way they want to feel when they are teaching and that they can then use to talk about the situation. For me, the first thing that came to mind is the featured image above: I am teaching hybrid, including hands-on #kitchenoceanography elements for participants both online and in the room with me, about teaching in exactly that way. Or the image below: More hands-on teaching, and someone found my blog. So for me, the artefact thing definitely works, will think about whether/how to include it. So stay tuned for how that workshop develops until we run it in the fall!

P.S.: Even though I say that Claude & I “discussed”, of course that is not what happened. I wrote prompts, and was given the most likely response based on a certain training data set and the way the AI was trained. But in absence of a real person to talk through my thoughts with, this was surprisingly useful for clarifying for myself what I want and what I don’t want, and just exploring, out of curiosity, how Claude might respond to certain prompts and questions in turn prompted me to think. So that was fun!

iEarth/CHESS summer school fall 2021 at GFI. Picture by Torgny Roxå

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  1. Pingback: According to Hicks et al. (2004), "ChatGPT is bullshit". And they make good arguments for it, too! - Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching

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