Module Overview

Section 1: Background

Section 2:
Design Elements

Section 3: Additional Considerations

Section 4: Facilitating the Experience

Section 5:


Module Conclusion

About the Author


Roger Garrison, English professor and dedicated professional, conducted the first Master Teacher Seminar in 1962 at Westbrook College in Portland, Maine. It was held in the summers in tandem with The Writing Institute; both of these events  drew a devoted group of participants.  Following Garrison's death, the Master Teacher Seminar was conducted at a Massachusetts community college until Nancy Roediger and David Gottshall decided to reproduce the seminar in many parts of the country. Nancy is professor of English at Tarrant County Junior College and David Gottshall at the time was professor of sociology at College of DuPage. Gottshall and others formed the Great Teacher Seminar in Illinois. He has been a strong leader in articulating core seminar concepts and adding to them and has led the event throughout the United States and Canada.

I first became aware of the Master Teacher Seminar at a National Council of Staff, Program and Organizational Development (NCSPOD) national conference where Rich Brass held a workshop on the success of a seminar he had done with Iowa community college presidents. He enthusiastically recounted the pillar principles fundamental to Roger Garrison's work. (I will describe these vital criteria shortly.) From that NCSPOD conference I came back to Texas with the idea of replicating this experience close to home so that many neighbor community college teachers could benefit from it. How would I start something that I had never experienced myself?  I decided to find two faculty members who had been staff members for Master Teacher Seminars elsewhere and thus appreciated the design and were emotionally invested in the experience. Those two people were:

Nancy Roediger, who had served on Roger Garrison's staff in Maine and had continued facilitating the Massachusetts event, and
Marvin Longshore, a Social Science professor at Alvin Community College (Texas) who was on the staff at Illinois Great Teacher Seminar, led by David Gottshall. 

I got these two fine people together at a Texas Junior College Teacher Association state convention and said, "I know the Master Teacher Seminar is valuable, but I don't know how to do it. If I get the place, and the teachers there, will you run it and show me how to do it?"  They were excited about it. In the third week of May, 1981 the first Great Teaching Roundup was held at Mayan Dude Ranch in Bandera, Texas. We had forty participants. The Roundup is now the one of the longest running Master Teacher Seminars in the country. We moved to the Lazy Hills Ranch in Ingram, Texas in 1984 and have been there since that time.

It would be appropriate here to mention something about the highly infectious nature of Roger Garrison's design. Participants almost always come away from the seminar  thinking, "That was really something important and it seems simple enough; I think we need to do that at our college!" Off they go, many times using the model mentioned above; that is, they get a veteran seminar facilitator to train local staff to organize and facilitate the event. The excitement is contagious!

Here are just a few of the Master Teacher Seminars:

In addition, visit, The National Council for Staff, Program and Organizational Development, and click on Great Seminars. See also, The National Great Teacher Movement, for documents on planning and implementing the Master Teacher Seminar.

Roger Garrison's design has reached beyond community college faculty in many different ways. For example, the Great Teaching Roundup spawned a weekend seminar involving three radically different types of institutions in Waco, Texas. This event, led by Randy Shormann from McLennan Community College, combined the rich diversity of a technical institute (now TSTC), a community college (MCC), and a private university (Baylor), and resulted in post-seminar programs to share equipment, instructional resources, and faculty. Many colleges, including Amarillo Community College, Houston Community College, Tyler Junior College, Western Arizona Community College, and Austin Community College, have started their own Master Teacher Seminar after sending participants to the Great Teaching Roundup. 

Sandy Gaskin from Austin Community College organized the Great Teachers Facilitators Seminar in Texas for leaders and facilitators of Master Teacher Seminars. It was led by David Gottshall. Sandy learned about Garrison and the MTS concept at The Great Teaching Roundup in Ingram, Texas.

There have been seminars for administrators, for classified staff, for mixed/all groups of community college employees, and for presidents only. Carlton Williams asked me to help him with the Colorado Faculty Roundup at Sleepy Cat Lodge. He went on to conduct events for a council of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges in Colorado, for administrators in Alabama, and for faculty in Oklahoma and Georgia. Much of Carlton's work is supported by the National Council for Instructional Administrators and the similar state group of administrators in Colorado. Additionally, we have worked toward establishing an international seminar in England, although we have not yet made it happen.

This chain reaction is what Roger Garrison started. The Master Teacher Seminar idea has made many, many evangelists. It is truly a movement characterized by spontaneous ignition of ideas, clear communication, and shared leadership.

No comments about the background of the Master Teacher Seminar should omit the outstanding paper, "The Great Teaching Seminar: Why Does It Work?" written by Cindra Smith. In her treatment of the movement she refers to as The Great Teacher Seminar (GTS) Movement and to David Gottshall as the founder. I have not understood much difference in Garrison's design and what Cindra Smith calls the Great Teacher Seminar. Her paper does not mention Roger Garrison; yet, it is outstanding as it describes the psychological and andragogical underpinnings of the seminar design. At the Great Teaching Roundup, we ask that all of our staff interns and other new staff members  read and internalize her paper as they join us. The paper is an important and provocative statement about the MTS, how teachers learn, and how they might think of themselves.

This section of the module asks you to identify some of the important background of the Master Teacher Seminar.

Who are the founders? Try and write them down on paper.
Is the idea growing, spreading, and viable?
Can you identify two other locations where the Master Teacher Seminar is conducted?
How does it spread?

Think about these elements for a bit. Take a few moments to review the background of the Master Teacher Seminar before we move on to Garrison's prescriptive and vital design elements.