Learning Communities

Recent literature suggests the potential of faculty learning communities to significantly impact teaching and learning (Polich 2008). As opposed to workshops or presentations, learning communities allow teachers time to systematically investigate a pedagogical question, reflect on the impact of curricular changes on student learning, receive feedback from peers, and build connections within the university community. While the learning community model generally focuses on full-time faculty (for example, Cox and Richlin, 2004), staff educators also play an important role in student learning, whether in the traditional classroom or through other modalities. "Faculty, administrators, and others must challenge students and each other to view learning as continuous and contagious in the biology lab, library, academic advisors' office, residence hall lounge, place of employment, student union, community service, and playing fields" (Kuh, Branch Douglas, Lund, Ramin-Gyurnek 1995). Scholarship on student affairs also emphasizes the potential of faculty and staff partnerships to deepen student learning (Astin 1993, Kuh, Schuh, Whitt and Associates, 1991).

In 2011-12, the Office of Faculty Development launched a faculty and staff learning community program.  The focus of the first year was fostering student success through evidence-based classroom inquiry.  The "Student Success Staff Learning Community" and  "Closing the Loop Faculty Learning Community" shared their projects during the January 2012 Professional Development Week. At the end of the year, participants  assessed their projects and will report the results in a fall poster session.

The learning community program will continue in 2012-13, with two new learning communities: "Best Practices in Teaching Statistics and Research Methods" and "Retention is Everyone's Responsibility."

References

Astin, A. W. (1993). What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Blaich, C. and K. Wise (2011). "From Gathering to Using Assessment Results: Lessons from the Wabash Study." NILOA Occasional Paper No. 8. Indiana: NILOA.

Cox, M. D. & L. Richlin (2004). Building faculty learning communities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning: No. 97. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hutchings, P. (2010). Opening Doors to Faculty Involvement in Assessment. NILOA Occasional Paper No. 4. Indiana: NILOA.

Kuh, G., J. Schuh, E. Whitt & Associates. (1991). Involving Colleges: Successful Approaches to Fostering Student Learning and Development Outside the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kuh, G., K. Branch Douglas, J. Lund, & J. Ramin-Gyurnek (1995). Student Learning Outside the Classroom: Transcending Artificial Boundaries. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Polich, S. Assessment of a faculty learning community program: Do faculty members really change? In L. B. Nilson &J. E. Millers (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Vol. 26. Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development (pp. 3-17). Bolton, MA: Anker.

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