Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation

Flashmob WrenchSomething of a follow-up to a recent post about conferences:

PSNow has published an explanation of why I have attended every APSA Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) since 2007. The TLC uses a working group model rather than the typical disjointed panel sessions, so I thought I’d post some tips for people who have never attended before.

At the initial session on Friday afternoon, you’ll meet the other members of your track. These are the people with whom you’ll be interacting throughout the conference. The track moderator will probably ask for one or two people in your track to volunteer to take notes and write up a short summary of the track for publication in PS: Political Science and Politics. This is an easy way to have your name appear in print.

The working group model is designed to facilitate a relatively free-flowing exchange of ideas among track members, whether they are presenting papers or not. There are no formal discussants who hold court while everyone else in the room sits on their hands. The moderator for your track will probably enforce strict time limits on the length of presentations to ensure that everyone has as much chance as possible to contribute to the conversation. This means that presenters should heed the old joke about how one gets to Carnegie Hall — practice, practice, practice — so they don’t run long.

There are two slots in the conference schedule for workshops in which participants experience an unfamiliar pedagogical technique. As with the presentation sessions, the emphasis is on active participation rather than passive listening. You’ll have a choice of which workshops to attend.

In the final track session on Sunday morning, the moderator will lead an effort to summarize what participants felt they learned about the track’s topic over the weekend. What common themes, problems, or solutions emerged from discussion? These findings are presented to all conference attendees in the final plenary session.

One last thought: the TLC is about learning how to teach more effectively. Think about connecting with people who do what you do, but in slightly different ways. A small tweak to a syllabus or instructional method might pay big dividends.

For detailed information about the 2016 TLC program and registration, go here. The early bird registration discount ends soon.