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The Spring 2022 edition of the QEP newsletter features a profile of a current QEP course and a collection of tips, resources and workshops to support you as you continue to facilitate dialogue and discussion in your courses.



Is Star Wars a Religion? | REL 369

The following is based on a lightly-edited interview with Robyn Walsh, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and participant in the 2019 Harkness FLC.

Overview: This course explores intersections between the Star Wars universe and the category of religion in an effort to test the proposition that Star Wars is— or perhaps one day might become — a “religion.” By using Star Wars as a case study, she and her students are able to ask a number of questions at the heart of the study of religion: What does it take for something to be a religion? How do new religious movements start? How do we theorize the study of religion? What turns certain narratives into “canon”? 

Biggest Success: According to Prof. Walsh, one of the biggest successes in this course is the way it calls upon the students’ pre-knowledge and then both disrupts what they think they know about a topic and then translates that knowledge base into new areas of inquiry. 

Biggest Challenge: Like many other faculty, Robyn struggled with how to teach this course remotely, in the early stages of the pandemic. In particular, she was deeply concerned about access and equity and decided to generate dialogue and discussion asynchronously; she invited a series of academics and other experts to speak on a makeshift Star Wars podcast and would facilitate a conversation based on questions the students submitted in advance and then the students would listen and send in their reactions, additional questions for the experts, and questions for one another. 

Harkness Tip: Robyn likes giving exercises where students read a difficult primary text—say, a Stoic document on cosmology— and then she asks them to workshop the argument together using the dry erase/smart board. Working together to chart and discuss the development of an argument that, before class started, seemed almost impenetrable is exactly what this kind of approach to learning is all about! 



Peer and Self Assessment in the Discussion-Based Classroom

May 3, 2022, 10:00pm - 11:30am

Location: Richter Library, 305

Facilitator: Aaron Royer, Senior Instructional Designer

Peer and self assessment encourage students to take a more active role in their learning as they continuously reflect on assessment criteria and their progress toward them. They can also be a useful tool in classes - like those we work with for the QEP - where group work plays an important part, as a way to monitor and assess group dynamics.  In this session, we will share ideas, strategies, and resources related to developing and implementing peer and self assessment in discussion-based classrooms.

Register for this workshop 



This edition's teaching tip comes to us from Christine Delgado, Assistant Professor of Psychology and participant in the 2019 Flipped Learning FLC, and centers on her use of Padlet, a digital whiteboard platform which allows users to collaborate by posting text, images, videos, documents, audio, and links. 

Overview: Padlet is visually appealing and easy to use for both instructors and students. Padlet posts can include images, videos, documents, and web links and they can be set to allow comments, ratings, and/or grades. This simple program can be used in a wide variety of ways to support in person, hybrid, and online instruction.  Padlet can be used similarly to discussion boards, but it can also be used for a variety of other purposes including introductions, sharing information, posting assignments, and peer feedback.

Potential Piftfalls: The free version of Padlet only allows users to create 3 Padlets.  It's a great way to test the program but is not enough to effectively use the tool in a class setting, especially in more than one course.  UM does not currently have a site license for Padlet.

Potential Uses: Padlet is a great way to have students share their work with each other.  For example, in my Prenatal Development course, I have students work in groups to create infographics and post them in Padlet.  Then, I create a scavenger hunt activity where the students search for information in the posted infographics.  



Applications are open for the 2022 Faculty Learning Community (FLC) on Learning through Dialogue and Discussion. If you think any of your colleagues may be interested, please encourage them to apply here. The application deadline is April 22.



Object-Based Learning

This workshop, which took place on March 3rd and was part of the Spring 2022 QEP Faculty Development Series, focused on ways instructors can integrate object-based learning - a form of active learning that uses artworks, artifacts, archives, digital representations, and everyday materials to inspire close observation and deep critical thinking - into their discussion-based courses. 

Five Techniques for Better Class Discussions

This article from Faculty Focus lays out a number of concrete strategies and activities which can be used to create safe spaces and ultimately the conditions for productive discussion.



For information about the QEP, including pedagogical resources and upcoming events, visit our website. To set up a one-on-one consultation or propose a workshop idea, contact Aaron Royer at