There are a few vital design elements which must be considered when conducting a Master Teacher Seminar. These design elements will be identified and discussed briefly.
Selecting the Facility
The facility should be fairly isolated so that there is a minimum of distraction. I recall one event that was held at a hotel in Orlando where Disneyworld competed for the participants' time. Our event in Texas is at a guest ranch (Lazy Hills Guest Ranch) where we have the entire facility to ourselves and it is scheduled at a time before the tourist season. All cabins have front porches, some of them large enough for breakout sessions. The ranch has only one TV set, in the living room of the ranch house, and one pay phone next to the ranch house. Most places on the ranch have poor cell phone reception. It is in a valley and most participants who are compelled to call must go to the next ridge. The temporary isolation from the outside world allows participants to focus on the business at hand.
This location also supports many other learning opportunities. Over the years we have had participants lead us in fossil hunts, bird watching tours, fly fishing, Texas Two Step dancing, kneading and baking in the ranch kitchen, and many other extracurricular activities. These spur of the moment learning events embody the joy of sharing teaching and learning. The right MTS facility will afford and enhance these kinds of opportunities and the seminar staff should take advantage of them.Meals
Related to the facility selection is the food! Meals should be satisfying (good food) and served family style. The dining room fills with conversation, usually about students, teaching, and learning. I recall one participant in the Garrison Master Teacher Seminar in Portland who recounted that Garrison always had the dining room open, and 24 hours a day there was an ice cream freezer full of vanilla ice cream. He could go there any time of the day for a serving. The participant was remembering this 20 years later.
At the ranch, the meals are announced by the ranch house bell and by the third day of the seminar participants are lined up waiting for the bell, just as if they had been trained and conditioned by Pavlov. The staff has prescribed that the noon meal be a light one, usually soup and sandwich because the group needs to be awake for the afternoon sessions.Expectations
Early in the event the staff lays out the ground rules or expectations. The ground rules are, in this writer's mind, required by the Garrison template. In the Texas MTS, we follow them to the letter. The most important of these rules are:
"Less is More"
As you read through this module, take time now to review the design elements required by the Roger Garrison template of the Master Teacher Seminar. Be able to identify the ground rules. What does it mean that the seminar design is "rigidly unstructured?" Finally, what could David Gottshall's phrase "less is more" mean as it relates to the design?