P691G – Graduate Student Professional Development Seminar

Summary of Protocols for Common Activities

This is a list summarizing the protocols for some of the more common activities done in the course of this training. These activities are underlined in the week-by-week descriptions above and appear in the order they are first encountered. Hopefully, these instructions give you a sense of what the activity entails and give you the confidence to try it for yourself.

Please reach out if you have questions!


These are in the order in which they appear in the week-by-week plan

Hopes and Fears

There are a set of questions. Each student gets one sticky note per question, ideally different colors, on which they write their answers. The sticky’s are then collected, shuffled and then handed back out. This process allows each student’s voice to be heard, as read by other students, in an anonymous fashion. The results tend to be more honest than they would be otherwise. These comments can lead to class discussion or synthesis.

Source: Kirsten Helmer, TIDE Fellowship, UMass-Amherst TEFD

Collectively Construct a Definition

Students write their answers to a question or prompt on a sticky note. One-at-a-time students read their own responses (or can shuffle first) and go to the board. They stick the note on the board placing it physically close to related topics. Encourages students to look for themes and connections between ideas.

Source: Olga Kyle, @Innovation Fellowship, UMass-Amherst

Role Play

Students conduct a scenario with different roles. A commonly used example in this course is to have some students solve a problem while one knows the solution and tries to help the others. Instructors go around and give in-the-moment practical advice. Afterwards, the group debriefs on their different experiences.

VoiceThread – https://voicethread.com/

A tool supported by UMass (https://www.umass.edu/it/support/instruct/getstartedvoicethread) which allows students to leave comments in multimedia and to respond to each other’s comments.

JITT (Just-In-Time Teaching)

Facilitator compiles a short lecture addressing the biggest questions from the reading, ideally with quotes directly from students.

Students answer a prompt in small groups, perhaps thinking through their own responses first. Groups then walk around the room commenting, “liking,” questioning, and problemitizing the work of the other teams. All groups can have the same prompt or each group can have a different prompt.

Perusall – http://app.perusall.com

A free way to make reading a more collaborative experience. The instructor uploads a pdf version of a document or arranges for a commercial textbook. Students (or groups of students if the class is large) effectively share a version of the document and can leave comments, questions, or observations to which other students can respond. These comments can then be graded on a course 0-1-2 type scale. For large classes, an AI does the grading automatically.

Whiteboard Work

I have notice a significant difference in how groups of people work when standing at a collaborative space like a whiteboard or large sticky note vs. on sheets of paper in front of them. A large collaborative space seems to encourage much more of a “team working on a problem together” vs. “a group of people working on the same problem sitting next to each other and occasionally checking in.” Large collaborative spaces also make it easier for the instructors to quickly see the progress of all of the groups in a class and identify which groups could use intervention. Sharing to the class as a whole is also simpler on these collaborative spaces. Students are often reluctant to actually get up and work, and some forceful prodding is often needed the first few times until the students are “trained.”


Tutorials are a series of questions to guide students to think about different ideas

Perhaps one of the best examples for intro physics is

Tutorials in Introductory Physics. Lillian C. McDermott, Peter S. Shaffer and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington (Pearson Publishing, Inc.)

Ask Me Anything (AMA)

Based upon the AMAs of Reddit. Participants submit questions in advance to assistant facilitators who then develop a coherent set of questions to be asked during the session. The lead facilitator can add additional questions if they so desire based upon what they have observed. Participants are also welcome to ask additional questions during the session. This works best with a panel.