of the Group
Cindra Smith's paper contains
some observations on the optimal size of a Master Teacher Seminar. She
mentions an upper limit of 90 participants. At the Great Teaching Roundup,
the facility sets this limit for us, but our maximum in any year was 45
participants. Our staff, however, never felt good about this large a number.
We feel that about 35 people, not counting the staff, is ideal. Everyone
wears name tags from the first day of arrival. There is an arrival day
reception under the canopy at the pool that afternoon and people trickle
in at different times. I have never felt good about having a group so
large that I could not learn first names. That number is about 35. There
is general agreement on this. On the other hand, a group with as few as
15 participants is not sufficiently diverse in academic disciplines, programs,
teaching styles, etc. to produce a rich exchange of ideas.
of the Staff
There are other numbers that are important to the staff. Group dynamics
say that the maximum size of an effective group is 9-12. We employ our
seminar staff at the ratio of 1 staff member to 7 or 8 participants. So,
if we have an enrollment of 35, we will have five staff members. We always
employ an intern (only one) who, having been trained, can return the following
year as staff. We provide the staff with room and meals at the site and
of the Staff
The ideal staff member should have a strong foundation in interpersonal
skills (observing, listening, proposing, etc.) and in group dynamics—the
skills of managing an effective work group (centering, gate-keeping, asking,
proposing, summarizing, sharing, etc.). The staff should meet every day,
usually at the end of the day, to discuss problems, fine-tune the schedule,
share breakout group assignments, and any other issue that improves the
experience of the participants. Are we bringing out the best resources
within the group? Does any participant have problems that we have heard
about, but are not surfacing? Are any exciting, substantive ideas that
we have heard that are being lost—ideas that need further development,
more focus? All of this work must be done with honesty, sensitivity, and
candor. The staff has a responsibility to shape and guide the seminar;
it is a role whereby the staff takes the needs of the participants and
matches these needs with resources within the group. This is a very big
job. The very best seminars that we have had are the ones in which I enjoyed
learning and left with a quiet and satisfying exhaustion. Good staff members
are curious, bright learners who model the behavior sought from all of
Finally, in the Great Teaching Roundup, we have tried to have a balance
of community college teachers from both academic and technical programs,
emphasizing the comprehensive nature of the community college. To that extent,
we try to have both academic and technical talents on the staff. Though
back on their home campuses there is usually a segregation of technical
and academic programs, invariably at the GTR they realize that they share
many of the same students and that they have much more to gain from cooperation
and collaboration than from isolation. I recall John Dean, an English teacher
from Lee College (Baytown, Texas) who asked, "Are we supposed to teach students
how to make a living, or are we supposed to teach them how to live?" A clever
is difficult to have a staff reflect all of the important criteria (like
academic/technical disciplines) because we only have five staff members.
Over the years at the GTR, however, a source of pride has been an approximate
50-50% of academic and technical faculty participants. This makes for
some interesting and valuable discussion related to appropriate goals,
values, learning activities, and other areas. Other factors for consideration
when selecting staff are their gender, ethnicity, and age, although I
am not sure how to prioritize these.
for a minute, if you were going to conduct a master teacher seminar—
would be the size of you group?
kind of staff members would you need?
important skills would they posses? What would be your view of the importance
of the staff?
is their primary role?
module now turns to some really basic yet important factors--some logistics
that make the seminar run smoothly.