Sparking Inspiration in 2021:

Learning Experiences that Engage and Motivate Learners

May 13 & 14, 2021

Term Chair Support of the Playhouse Institute Theatre Educators’ Conference generously provided by Michael and Alison Dalewitz

Bucks County Playhouse Institute presents a 2-day workshop led by the DKDK Project

Understandably teachers feel overwhelmed by the challenges this year presents. As teachers move from in-person teaching to remote and hybrid models (and back and forth between all three), many are reconsidering what “works.” This workshop, facilitated by Erica Chapman and David Dunbar of the DKDK Project, invites participants to consider the role student engagement and motivation play in deep learning. Over the course of four sessions, this workshop will reframe teaching in 2021 as an opportunity to design learning experiences that inspire students to take ownership over their own learning. Participants will collaborate with educators from a variety of schools to consider where engagement and motivation come from and how they are linked to deep, transformational student learning experiences.

Conference Schedule

Thursday, May 13

9:30 – 11:00 Session

In our first session together we will consider what purposeful engagement is and why matter if deep student learning is your goal? We will move beyond conversations of what you are teaching, essential questions and relevance and into a conversation about the purpose of the learning occurring in your course.


1:00 – 2:30 Session

Our second session will explore the particular habits and dispositions students with a high degree of engagement possess. What is it that keeps some students engaged and motivated (while others seem to go boneless and slink into bed!)? Particularly in the age of remote learning, how do we build a culture of learning that is joyful and meaningful?


Friday, May 14

9:30 – 11:00 Session

Last summer, Justin Reich, MIT Teaching Systems Lab, and Jal Mehta, Harvard Graduate School of Education, published an article called “Imagining September: Principles and Design Elements for Ambitious Schools during COVID-19.” They noted that students’ fundamental relationship to school and learning has changed during the COVID era and that schools have the opportunity to amplify student agency in this moment. This session will explore that idea and take it one step further by introducing the idea of “authorship.”


1:00 – 2:30 Session

In our final session together, we will build organically from the first three. Participants will think synthetically about the prior sessions and what they mean for their own students and teaching practice.

Conference Facilitators

Erica Chapman

Erica Chapman


Erica Chapman is the founder and principal consultant at the DKDK Project, an organization committed to redefining the “grammar of schooling” through strategic partnerships and transformational teacher development.

Erica is the former Dean of Faculty at The Masters School, where she spearheaded the implementation of a mission-aligned teacher development and evaluation system. Prior to becoming the Dean of Faculty, Erica was the Director of CITYterm at The Masters School, an experience-based semester program for juniors and seniors in high school.  As the Director, Erica oversaw all aspects of the interdisciplinary, project-based educational program.  For fifteen years, she was the co-facilitator, along with David Dunbar, of the Teaching for Experience workshop (a weeklong intensive that introduced teachers to the principles of experience-based, deep learning).

Erica has experience in the public, private, charter and non-profit domains.  She has held positions at Achievement First Charter Schools, New Leaders for New Schools and at the New York City Department of Education. In each role, Erica’s aim has been to improve student-learning experiences by advancing the effectiveness of teachers.

Erica holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and a M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania.

David Dunbar

David Dunbar


David Dunbar taught high school students for over four decades. Following over two decades of teaching at Deerfield Academy, Milton Academy and Albuquerque Academy, David Dunbar moved to New York, in 1996, to start CITYterm at The Masters School.  David was the Academic Dean and a member of the interdisciplinary Urban Core teaching team at CITYterm for twenty-one years.  While at The Masters School, David also served as the Coordinator for Teaching and Learning Initiatives and held the Joan Smith Hamill ‘34 Chair for Innovative Teaching.  For fifteen summers, David and Erica led the Teaching for Experience Workshop, a weeklong gathering for teachers interested in exploring and sharing how they can use the principles of experience-based learning to transform their own practice and their schools.

David has consulted with the public schools in New York, Atlanta and Chicago as well as with various independent and international schools around the world. He is the author, with Kenneth T. Jackson of Columbia University, of the award-winning Empire City: New York through the Centuries (Columbia University Press).

David earned his B.A. from Amherst College, his M.A.R. from Yale University and has been the recipient of Woodrow Wilson, Klingenstein and Fulbright Fellowships.


I gratefully thank you both for putting together what, for me, is the glue I need to keep it together, going into the near future. I feel like the collaborative dialogues, such as you facilitated, packed with lots of questions, is where we will find salvation. At the same time it seems apparent that educators may need to take stock of the old ways and try to figure out new methods of presentation and assessment. Checking boxes and figuring out grading rubrics might roll (rightfully) to the bottom of the rusty pile.

Kim Kholer

Teacher, Chadwick School

Thank you for two enlightening sessions! I learned so much from my peers and, above all, from your art of modulating the workshop to our questions, experiences, and tones. Your braided and synced collaborative energy modeled for us how to intuit, read, and respond to the many pulses within the room.

Sabrina Sadique

Teacher, Concord Academy

Thank you for the session! I loved the “wonderful confusions” and the possibilities that they offer in thinking about what learning and its outcomes should and could be. It was time well spent considering how as educators we would design transformative learning in the online learning way, in the coming school year. It was an honor to sit with such seasoned educators and expand my thinking with you all. 

I am excited at thinking together of how assessment and feedback might look like in the coming year and strategies for designing the first day of class and establishing a tone for the year. 

Anne Njeri Kamau

Teacher, African Leadership Academy