more information on FLCs

Faculty Learning Communities Purpose & Description

The work of Alexander Meiklejohn and John Dewey in the 1920s and '30s gave rise to the concept of a learning community. Increasing specialization and fragmentation in higher education caused Meiklejohn to call for a community of study and a unity and coherence of curriculum across disciplines. Dewey advocated learning that was active, student centered, and involved shared inquiry. A combination of these approaches in the late 1970s and '80s produced a pedagogy and structure that has led, among other things, to students' increased grade point averages, retention, and intellectual development. The term learning communities traditionally has been applied to programs that involve first- and second-year undergraduates, along with faculty who design the curriculum and teach the courses. A faculty learning community is a cross-disciplinary faculty group of 5 or more members engaging in a program with a curriculum about enhancing teaching and learning and with frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, development, and community building opportunities. In the literature about student learning communities, the word student usually can be replaced by faculty and still make the same point. For example, "Students rise to the occasion of learning communities: They perform better, accomplish more, drop out less." There are two categories of faculty learning communities: cohort-based and topic-based.

  1. Cohort-focused learning communities address the teaching, learning, and developmental needs of an important cohort of faculty that has been particularly affected by the isolation, fragmentation, or chilly climate in the academy. The curriculum of such a community is shaped by the participants to include a broad range of teaching and learning areas and topics of interest to them. These communities will make a positive impact on the culture of the institution over the years if given multi-year support. There are no cohort groups this year.
  2. Each topic-based learning community works to address a special campus teaching and learning issue, for example, diversity, technology, or cooperative learning. These communities offer membership to and provide opportunities for learning across all faculty ranks and cohorts, but with a focus on a particular theme. Two examples of issue-focused communities might be a Faculty Community Using Team Teaching to Enhance Learning or a Community Using Problem-Based Learning to Enhance Teaching.

The long-term goals of faculty learning communities for the University are to

  • build University-wide community through teaching and learning: create a learning organization
  • strengthen faculty interest in undergraduate teaching and learning
  • investigate and incorporate ways that difference can enhance teaching and learning
  • nourish scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and its application to student learning
  • broaden the evaluation of teaching and the assessment of learning
  • increase faculty collaboration across disciplines
  • encourage reflection about education and coherence of learning across disciplines
  • increase the rewards for and prestige of excellent teaching
  • increase financial support for teaching and learning initiatives
  • create an awareness of the complexity of teaching and learning

Each faculty learning community has its own specific goals and objectives, which are articulated in their respective sections that follow.

Each year the activities for these communities vary somewhat but are likely to include the following:

  • Seminars on teaching and learning. Topics might include assessment of student learning, enhancing the teaching/learning experience through awareness of students' intellectual development, sharing student and faculty views of teaching and learning, and topics selected from articles or books that participants of the communities select to read. Seminars might be led by guest faculty; others conducted by the participants themselves.
  • Retreats. An opening/closing retreat is held in May, with the "graduating" community sharing information with the new participants on various aspects of the program, such as seminar topics, student associate selection, and teaching projects.
  • Teaching projects. Community members pursue self-designed learning programs, including an individual teaching project, for which they receive financial support. Past projects have included developing expertise and courseware for computer-assisted instruction; redesigning an ongoing course; and investigating, learning, and trying a new teaching method. These projects are shared with the faculty at a campus-wide seminar.
  • National conferences. Each group has the option to attend a national conference on higher education, such as the Lilly Conference on Teaching and Learning, American Association of Colleges and Universities, or the Wakonse Conference on Teaching and Learning. Members are encouraged to make presentations at the conference.
  • Course mini-portfolio. Each participant selects a focus course in which to try innovations and prepares a course mini-portfolio that analyzes and provides evidence of student learning.