Teacher Think Tanks

WCATY partners with schools and the UW to bring communities together to find innovative solutions for the most salient issues in education, particularly those impacting advanced learners.  Some of the options below are directly sponsored by WCATY, while others are great opportunities to find an academic community focused on issues you care about. So, what's on your mind? The newest inventions in science? How to create lifelong readers? How to ensure that your advanced learners are challenged? How to coach other teachers while empowering them? How to articulate your feelings about current policy decisions? How to use game theory to make your lessons more interactive? 

Find More Information about WCATY's Assessment Think Tank Here.


Opportunities are open to all educators, those in traditional settings and those teaching outside of the school walls.  Find free (or very inexpensive) opportunities for educators below.



(Science Alliance) Wednesday Nite @ the Lab, How McArdle Scientists Uncovered the Causes of Cancer

sciallianceExperience science as exploring the unknown every week at Wednesday Nite @ the Lab. Discover the latest from UW-Madison researchers as they describe their investigations and inventions that are changing how we look at life and how we lead our lives. Join the discussion as learners of all ages find out more and share their ideas, questions and insights. WN@tL runs every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, and the topics cover the full range of science, engineering and technology research at UW-Madison, from astronomy to zoology, and from bioethics to biomedical engineering. The Genetics/Biotechnology Center is at the intersection of University Avenue and Randall Avenue and is served by over a dozen Metro bus lines.

Cost: FREE Admission

When: (Reoccurring on Wednesdays) December 10th, 7:00 to 8:15 p.m.

Target Audience: Science Educators

Where: Room 1111, The Auditorium, 425 Henry Mall, UW-Madison Campus

Website: Wednesday Nite @ the Lab 


(WCATY) Teaching Research Skills across the Curriculum: Exploring Professional Processes

In today’s online world, research is an everyday activity. We research holiday presents and our favorite actors. The ELA CCSS also highlights this emphasis on research in both the writing and reading sections.  But how can we design and assess research activities that spur higher level thought and fit the time period available during RtI blocks? How do we acknowledge the informal uses of research, while still anchoring students in the academic fields we are teaching?  One answer is to focus on the research processes different professionals employ.  For example professional historians reconstruct something that has already happened, while reflective leaders build consensus around a plan of action. Engineers test connections and impacts, while designers discover a need that an invention can fill. Come think like a historian, a politician, a scientist, an engineer or a designer as you learn how to design and assess research activities.


When: December 11th from 10:00 to 12:00

Cost:  Free

Target Audience: All classroom teachers and curriculum specialists

RSVP:  Tell us you're coming. 

Printable Flier

Location: Memorial Union, UW Madison Campus

Presenter: Rebecca Vonesh



(CCBC) Book Talks,  December Book List


Join us to talk about new books for children and young adults at our book discussion on Wednesday, October 22, 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. Since 1981 the Cooperative Children's Book Center has offered monthly discussions of newly published trade books for children and young adults. The meetings are open to anyone who wishes to read the books in advance and participate in the discussion. We welcome any interested adults to our CCBC book discussions. Please do read at least one or two books on the list if you plan to attend.



When: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 from 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Target Audience: Book lovers

Book List:  December

Contact: 608-263-3720

Location: CCBC, Room 401 Teacher Education, 225 N. Mills Street, Madison

Website: CCBC

Limitations: Must have read one of the books being discussed


(WID, Field Day Labs) Game Demo Fridays

WIDWhat happens when teachers, education theorists, software engineers and game designers collaborate to produce innovative educational experiences? Our team wants to know. Game Demo Fridays are a time for educators, designers and players to play and critique video games that push boundaries, giving us an evolving vocabulary of what video games are and what they can achieve.


The Field Day Lab's goal is to co-create dozens of mobile games, apps and hackathon events that explore the intersection of digital media design practices and contemporary education research. We are applying agile software development approaches to education by producing prototypes, testing them in the field with real kids, iterating, and developing generalized theories of design based on in situ research. By releasing our apps and curriculum freely and openly to fellow explorers worldwide, we are incubating communities of users that provide ongoing grant writing, research, documentation and support.

When: Reoccurring every Friday, starting at 12:30- 1:30

Contact: Join the Google Group!


Cost: Free

Target Audience: Educators, Game Designers, Technology Teachers, Lovers of Media

Location: Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Website: Field Day Labs 


(Madison Area Reading Council)  AIW, Coaching to Support Authentic, Engaging Literacy Instruction

readingAuthentic Intellectual Work (AIW) is a framework being used by schools and districts around the country that supports authentic, intellectually rigorous instruction while foregrounding teacher expertise and student work. In this interactive presentation, the presenters, AIW co-founder Bruce King and instructional coaches Kate Bouchard, Laurie Friedrich & Laura Lang, will introduce the framework and share examples of the ways it is being used to support authentic literacy instruction in area schools. Attendees will have a chance to apply the AIW framework to various artifacts and to explore how the AIW framework impacts the instructional coach's role.

When: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 5:30 Dinner / 6:30 Speaker

Cost: Sessions are to Members (only $20 to be a member) 10$ for non-members

Target Audience: Reading Instructors, Reading Specialists, Administrators

Speakers: Bruce King, Kate Bouchard, Laura Lang & Laurie Friedrich

Location: Fitchburg Library

Website: Madison Area Reading Council



(EOP) Greater Madison Writing Workshop, From High School to College

As high school teachers, we are told that career and college readiness are what we are preparing our students for. How often do we ever get to talk to first-year English college instructors and each other about the challenges and concerns we have about our students and their college readiness? This symposium is intended to foster collaborative conversations among high school English teachers and their college counterparts. This is our chance to talk about concerns, common practices, and shared goals.



When: January 30, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m

Cost: Free, lunch-provided

Target Audience: High-school English teachers

Location: UW Madison campus

Flier: From High School to College

Register: Register here!



(WCATY) Supporting Advanced Learners in an RtI Framework

RtIWisconsin’s vision for RtI supports meeting the needs of all learners in a culturally responsive multi-level system of support, including those of advanced learners. In this session, participants will learn about guiding questions, resources, and strategies to support advanced learners in their RtI framework. Specifically, we will focus on:

Developing collaborative structures for data-based decision-making for students whose needs extend beyond the reach of the Universal level of support

Finding research-based additional challenges, and

Setting goals and monitoring the progress of students receiving additional challenges


When: February 5th from 10:00 to 12:00

Cost:  Free

Target Audience: Teachers and administrators looking for ways to incorporate advanced learners into their RtI model

RSVP:  Tell us you're coming. 

Printable Flier

Location: Memorial Union, UW Madison Campus

Presenter: Heidi Erstad


(EOP) Greater Madison Writing Workshop



WritingworkshopJoining a nationally-acclaimed professional learning community that puts the knowledge,

experience, and voices of teachers at the center; rediscovering the power of your own writing and scholarly inquiry;

Developing the skills and confidence to take your writing instruction into the digital age; having the support, resources, and opportunities you need to have the career of your dreams.


About the Institute

The Greater Madison Writing Project’s (GMWP) Invitational Summer Institute brings together a select group of outstanding teachers who work with students in all academic content areas and at all grade levels, kindergarten through college. Supported by the GMWP directors and each other, these teachers spend four weeks immersed in writing, reading, and teacher inquiry workshops, ultimately returning to their schools as GMWP Teacher-Leaders. In this capacity they may provide professional development within their districts, present their research in local, regional, and national venues, and contribute to the ongoing growth of the GMWP—to name just a few of countless possibilities. In this way, the Summer Institute represents the first leg in what over eighty thousand Writing Project Teacher-Leaders around the country have described as a career-transforming journey.


When: July 6 – 31, 2015, Monday through Thursday (and Friday, July 11 & 18) 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Cost: Free

Target Audience: All educators

RSVP:  Send in application by Feb. 16th to Mark Dziedzic (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Location: Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin

Due Date for Application: Feb. 16th

Website:  Greater Madison Writing Workshop 


(Madison Area Reading Council)  Tracking Argumentation in Informational Texts

readingArgumentation is pervasive in informational texts; indeed, the analysis of argumentation assumes a prominent place in the Common Core literacy standards, most particularly Reading Standard 8, Writing Standard 1, and Speaking/Listening Standard 4. Explanations, conclusions, generalizations, interpretations, propositions - even theories—all are forms of argumentation that students will encounter as readers of complex informational texts. Understanding the nature of argumentation, and how arguments are developed and supported in different disciplines, is an essential component in studying a subject. In this presentation, Doug Buehl will share literacy practices that prompt and support the analysis of argumentation. In addition, he will demonstrate the ways in which these practices can support and deepen students' comprehension of informational texts.


When: March 5th , 5:30 Dinner / 6:30 Speaker

Cost: Sessions are to Members (only $20 to be a member) 10$ for non-members

Target Audience: Reading Instructors, Reading Specialists, Administrators

Speakers: Doug Buehl

Location: Maple Bluff Country Club

Website: Madison Area Reading Council



(Science Alliance) 13th Annual UW Science Expeditions

ScienceexpeditionsUW-Madison welcomes learners and explorers of all ages to campus to experience science as exploring the unknown at the 13th Annual UW-Madison Science Expeditions! All campus events are free and open to the public. Bring your family and friends! A fun, family-friendly event for kids and adults of all ages! There are no tickets required for any of the on campus events or venues. Science Spectaculars have specific starting times; first come, first seated. Start your journey with Hands-on Exploration Stations at the Town Center in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building at the heart of campus. The stations are flow-by exhibits staffed by UW scientists. You can explore each station as long as you please.

When: March 20-22

Cost: Free

Target Audience: Educators and Families

Location: All over the UW Madison Campus

Website: UW Science Expeditions   



(EOP) Student Centered Coaching



Student-centered coaching is at the core of what schools are about…learning. It is grounded in a simple but powerful premise: that coaching can be designed to directly impact student learning. When the focus is shifted from ‘fixing’ teachers to collaborating with them to design needs-based instruction, coaching becomes both more respectful and results-based.




Cost:  Free

Target Audience: Teachers, GT Coordinators, Instructional Specialists, Reading Coaches, and Administrators

Printable Flier

When: May 6th, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM

Location: School of Education Building, UW-Madison campus

Register: RSVP Here

Presenter: Diane Sweeney



(WiPOP) Where is Teacher Voice in Education Policy?

WiPOP (Wisconsin Policy, Outreach, and Practice), is dedicated to teacher-driven conversation about public policy. Our goals are (1) to build PK-12 teachers’ capacity around federal, state, and local policy initiatives; (2) to provide an inclusive, low-stakes space for teachers to collaboratively engage with policy issues; and (3) to foster on-going, teacher-directed policy discussions with advocates, policymakers, and researchers. Creating Dialogue around Critical Issues: Teacher and Student Voice in the Context of the Common Core State Standards

This interactive Teacher Think Tank will have two, related parts: We will begin with a focused and guided dialogue about how public policy, specifically the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), interacts with your classrooms and schools. This part of the discussion will be led by WiPOP (Wisconsin Policy, Outreach, and Practice), which is dedicated to teacher-driven conversation about public policy. The second phase of the Think Tank will focus on how to structure critical classroom dialogue and discussion with students in the CCSS era. Paula McAvoy from the Center for Ethics and Education will engage participants in a discussion of the pedagogical challenge of deciding what to teach as controversial. 


Cost:  Free

Target Audience: Teachers and administrators looking for ways to voice thoughts/concerns about the current educational policy.

When: May 7th from 10:00 to 12:00

RSVP:  Tell us you're coming. 

Printable Flier

Location: Memorial Union, UW Madison Campus

Presenter: Dr. Annalee Good

Before Coming: Fill out this quick survey.


(Games+ Learning+Society Center) Game Design Challenge

GLSThe Games+ Learning+Society Center is calling all aspiring game designers to prove themselves in a challenge of skills, smarts, and creativity! We are looking for primary and secondary school (K-12) student teams to design and build their very own game. Participants may use any game design software they are comfortable with-Kodu, Scratch, Game Marker, or even Python or java.




When: Game due on July 31st, 2015

Cost: Free

Target Audience: K-12 student teams and their educators

Website: GLS 

Printable Flier:  Game Design Challenge 



(WCATY) Summer Curriculum Design Jam, The Art of Curriculum Design

DesignCome build interactive educational experiences with a team of experienced designers.  During the two days you will develop a blended unit that tackles integrated problems. You will complicate problems by employing game design principles, motivate students through great storytelling, and utilize group strategies and tools to craft, display, and revise projects. Explore strategies to elevate online conversations, tie in assessment by developing feedback loops, and ensure student growth through self-reflection activities.  Connect your unit to standards and help your students begin to see their pathway toward expertise.  Walk away with a better understanding of a rich curriculum design process, more resources than you can count and the thoroughly throughout structure for your course.



When: August 3 & 4 or August 10 & 11

Target Audience: Educators looking to build curricular units (particularly blend/online units)

Cost: $175 Early Bird Registration (May 15, 2015) $225 Regular Registration (June 15, 2015)

Printable Flier

Register Here:

Limitations: Only 30 spots per session available

Hotel Rooms: Available through UW-Extension Conference Center's Lowell Center