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The TCNJ School of Education has partnered with faculty from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences to offer Interdisciplinary professional development as part of the Scholars Engagement Series and also 1 day Intensives  A summary and links to each are provided below.


For complete details please visit  Scholars Engagement Series

6 Seminars

Developing Great Thinking Minds of Students – 12/5/23

“Learning without thinking is labor lost; thinking without learning is perilous” — Confucius.

The acts of thinking directly affect our life, especially when we process information, make assumptions or interpretations, seek solutions, solve problems, make decisions, or come to conclusions. Good thinkers employ relevant information and adequate thinking skills to solve challenges or problems. Thus it is important to help students to develop a sharp thinking mind – to be able to think critically and creatively to meet the upcoming challenges in the ever-changing world. Critical thinkers can think rationally, precisely and systematically, as they can apply the rules of logic and follow practical scientific reasoning. Creative thinkers can intuitively create new and unconventional ideas which lead to many possibilities to make an impact on our lives.

Good thinking skills are essential to meaningful learning. Without engaging thinking, learning outcomes may mostly be confined to basic knowledge and skill levels. In the current school practice, students lack opportunities to exercise desirable cognitive potentials and tap into their brainpower for profound thinking and learning. In order to help students to develop adequate thinking skills, teachers need to facilitate students’ thinking development as they delve more deeply into academic learning. Powerful thinking minds are the most valuable assets in the world.

In this workshop, participating teachers will experience various teaching strategies to help improve students’ focus, observation, concentration, free association, and enhance students’ critical and creative thinking powers that can boost their confidence and joy in learning. The participants will be exposed to cases and fun challenges to gain practical experiences for their students to develop thinking minds. In addition, participating teachers will explore diverse approaches on student thinking development, discuss related issues and scenarios, and share personal experiences. Being exposed to various fun activities and hands-on experiences, participants will take away workable ideas and strategies to implement thinking development in their own teaching. A compiled list of useful activities, challenges, and resources will be shared during the seminar.

Seminar Leader: Alex C. Pan, Ph.D.
Dr. Alex C. Pan is an associate professor of Education. He teaches a broad spectrum of courses, ranging from teacher preparation courses, teacher’s action research, thinking and problem-solving, technology-enhanced instruction, to the impact of globalization. Dr. Pan has published dozens of articles, made many conference presentations, and conducted several workshops. He currently teaches in the department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Life Sentences: Teaching the Literature of the Prison – 2/16/24

America has become known as the “Incarceration Nation,” imprisoning more people than any other country in the world. Interdisciplinary in nature, this seminar will explore literature by and about prisoners, and address such themes as confinement, slavery and oppression, and most importantly, the power of the written word. We will consider many disciplines as we approach these materials: gender, criminology, psychology, sociology, and, most notably, literary analysis. Together, we will turn to this groundbreaking, provocative material written by one of the most neglected, silenced, but all-too-critical sectors of our population– the incarcerated. For Middle School or High School Teachers History, English/Language Arts, Creative Writing, Psychology, etc.

The Witches of Salem 1692 – 2/29/24

This seminar will focus on the most notorious witch hunt of America: Salem 1692. Looking at a plethora of archival and literary sources—ranging from pamphlets of “Wonders” and “Strange Occurrences,” sermons and court trial records, accusations and confessions, and many perplexing, fascinating manuscript diaries and letters—we will explore the multiple meanings of witchcraft in this early American village. Our class will delve into the primary texts preserved from this cultural phenomenon, and then review the ever-growing interdisciplinary scholarship that theorizes and illuminates this colonial community’s hysteria, rooted in its own beliefs about gender, sexuality, race and class. For Middle School or High School Teachers History, English/Language Arts, Creative Writing, Psychology, etc.

Seminar Leader for both seminars is Michele Lise Tarter
Michele Lise Tarter is Chair and Professor of English at The College of New Jersey. She is also an Affiliate faculty member in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Religious Studies, and Holocaust and Genocide Studies programs. Dr. Tarter has published and presented extensively on early American women’s writing, as well as on 17th – and 18th -century Quaker literature. She has also co-edited three book collections: A Centre of Wonders: The Body in Early America (Cornell University Press, 2001); Buried Lives: Incarcerated in Early America (University of Georgia Press, 2012); and New Critical Studies on Early Quaker Women, 1650-1800 (Oxford University Press, 2018). Her most recent book project is about the memoir-writing program she established in 2001 at the maximum-security wing of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey.

Exploring Economic Justice through Games, Film, and Fiction! – 1/25/24

The post-2008 bailouts of Big Banking and Big Business, the recent moves to impose a $15 minimum wage, the criticisms of the elite “1%”, and the moves by the Trump administration to “protect” American jobs and American workers by imposing tariffs on foreign goods and restricting immigration, and the perception that while the rich are getting richer the poor are getting poorer have all led to increasing interest in the question of what a just society should look like. This question is not just of theoretical interest for it encompasses issues whose outcomes can be affected by engaged citizens. Does justice require that businesses be required to pay their workers a minimum wage? Should a just society provide should its citizens with access to healthcare? Does justice require that off-shoring be limited—or does it require open immigration? Can serious economic inequality ever be just—and, if so, under what conditions?

In this seminar we will first explore the underlying question of what a just society should look like, drawing on the opposing views of the welfare liberal philosopher John Rawls, and the free market philosopher Robert Nozick. We will then explore the implications of both of these views for contemporary debates over practical matters, including (but not limited to) the issue of the justice of the minimum wage, the justice of universal healthcare, and the justice of laws prohibiting price-gouging in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. But we will not limit ourselves to exploring these issues through philosophical theory. We will also explore them through simple (but extremely enjoyable and engaging!) economics experiments (i.e., games!) that will shed insight as to how different ways of approaching these issues will actually play out in the real world, and we’ll also draw on works of both film and fiction that address these issues. These will include Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the science fiction of Robert A. Heinlein, and the films Other Peoples’ Money, Wall Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life. We will engage with them, identifying both the explicit and implicit messages that they convey…. And seeing whether on reflection (and in the light of the results of the games we played) we agree with them.

Teaching for Critical Thinking Through Activities and Games – 4/15/2024

We live in an era of “fake news” and increasing ideological division. It is now common for people to rush to judge the actions of actions of strangers based on posts on social media, to see political discussion in terms of “us” and “them”, and to reduce complex social and political issues to one-sentence memes. Since the majority of people in America now get their news from social media—sources that are poorly designed for conveying information or presenting issues fairly—it is thus more critical than ever for people to know how to critically assess claims that are presented to them.

Unfortunately, the structure of news delivery today provides people with little incentive for critically engaging with the information that is presented to them, with the increasingly short news cycles pressing forward to the next outrage almost as soon as the most recent one has been introduced. In this seminar we will explore some practical techniques that could be used to assess both empirical claims (e.g., “The American middle class is shrinking”) and prescriptive claims (e.g., “We should raise tariffs on imported goods to protect the middle class”). These techniques will range from outlining and identifying informal fallacies that are often used to persuade people, to learning how to verify empirical claims by working back to the sources from which they are claimed to have originated.

Engaging in such critical thinking takes time and effort—and so as well as exploring how to engage in this we’ll also explore ways to motivate students (and others!) to use critical thinking techniques when they are faced with either empirical or prescriptive claims. To this end we’ll explore some methods that have proved successful in the past in motivating students to engage critically with material presented to them on social media. These will include activities and games, including “The Prisoner’s Dilemma,” “The Fishing Game,” “The Myth Busting Scavenger Hunt”, “Would This Be True If Your Mother Wrote It?”, and “Why Believe THAT?” The book for this seminar is: Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion 2.0 (Jossey-Bass, 2014).

Seminar Leader for the two seminars above: James Stacey Taylor
James Stacey Taylor is a Professor of philosophy. An Anglo-Scot, he holds an MA and and M.Litt degrees from St Andrews University, Scotland, and an MA and a Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University, OH. He is the author of five books: Stakes and Kidneys, Practical Autonomy and Bioethics, Death, Posthumous Harm and Bioethics, Bloody Bioethics, and Markets with Limits. His award-winning Op-Eds on issues of ethics, justice, and economics have appeared in many publications ranging from USA Today to the Los Angeles Times, as well as He has also been quoted in The New York Times and is a contributor to NPR.

The Representation of Women in Ancient Greek Art – 1/29/24

Women have been greatly underrepresented in the literary and historical studies of ancient Greece, but there is an abundance of evidence about their lives available in the art historical and archaeological record. This course will help to illuminate the lives of Greek women by using a comparative and interdisciplinary approach that includes the evidence from art and architecture as well as literature. We will examine not only what women actually did and did not do in ancient Greece, but also how they were perceived by their male contemporaries and what value to society they were believed to have. By studying how women were represented in vase-painting, sculpture, and other arts and examining the arrangement of the houses where they lived, we will explore the complexities and ambiguities of women’s lives in ancient Greece and help to create a fuller, more rounded, and more accurate picture of women’s lives in ancient Greece than we get when we only study the literature. Key issues/questions to be explored:

How were women represented in the visual and material cultures of ancient Greece?
What messages about women were the images meant to express?
How does the way a woman is represented change with age, status, identity, geography?
What is the point of studying women in ancient Greece? Why does their history matter to us today?
For Middle and High School teachers in the areas of history, art, art history, English, or other humanities

Seminar Leader: Lee Ann Riccardi, PhD
Lee Ann Riccardi is a Professor of Art History and Classical Studies. Her main area of research focuses on portraiture, with a special emphasis on sculptural and coin portraits produced in the Greek world under the Romans, and she has written several articles on various aspects of these topics. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a year as a Fulbright scholar in Greece, and regularly leads study abroad trips to Greece and Rome.

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