Faculty Learning Communities
A Faculty Learning Community[i] (FLC) is a peer-led group of faculty members (6-12 in number) who engage in active, collaborative programming, with a curriculum structured to provide encouragement, support, and reflection on teaching and learning.
FLCs that are facilitated well encourage professional development and the scholarship of teaching and learning, which leads to more-engaged participation by faculty in the broader campus community. Sharing common teaching and learning experiences also breaks down discipline-specific boundaries, and promotes interdisciplinary projects and programs, and advance of the quality of teaching. The successes from FLCs are not only measured in learning outcomes, but also in the caliber of faculty relationships and culture.[ii]
If you are interested in an FLC, or have an idea for an FLC topic, please contact Michael Gillespie, Director of the Faculty Development and Innovation Center @ EIU.
Active Learning Spaces
What is active learning?
Active learning strategies are instructional activities involving learners in doing things and thinking about what they are doing.[iii] These require learners to engage in meaningful activities and think deeply about the concepts they are learning. When people engage in active learning, they are more likely to retain what they’ve learned.
What are active learning spaces?
Active learning spaces offer extensive pedagogical opportunities to meet the needs of contemporary learners through active learning and inspire them to develop relevant skills. Common features[iv] of successful active learning spaces include:
- Putting learners at the center
- Using space in the facilitation of impactful pedagogy
- Utilizing technology to enhance – not lead – learning
- Opportunities for education and training of faculty and instructors
- Foster cross-discipline collaboration
The goals of this Faculty Learning Community (FLC) are to:
- Develop a cohort of active learning leaders to train, support, and empower other EIU faculty interested in active learning
- Identify methods to use active learning spaces in teaching and learning at EIU
- Present activities that reflect the principles of growth, innovation, and creativity for students and instructors
- Empower faculty interested in active and creative teaching and learning
- Compile active teaching and learning styles and techniques that incorporate principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Compile and recommend a set of active learning techniques to share through the FDIC
Qualities Necessary for Community in FLCs
- Safety and trust. In order for participants to connect with one another, they must have a sense of safety and trust. This is especially true when participants reveal weaknesses in their teaching or ignorance of teaching processes or literature.
- Openness. In an atmosphere of openness, participants can feel free to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution.
- Respect. In order to coalesce as a learning community, members need to feel that they are valued and respected as people. It is important for the university to acknowledge their participation by financially supporting community projects and participation at FLC topic-related conferences.
- Responsiveness. Members must respond respectfully to one another, and the facilitator(s) must respond quickly to the participants. The facilitator should welcome the expression of concerns and preferences and, when appropriate, share these with individuals and the entire FLC.
- Collaboration. The importance of collaboration in consultation and group discussion on individual members’ projects and on achieving community learning outcomes hinges on group members’ ability with and respond to one another. In addition, to individual projects, joint projects and presentations should be welcomed.
- Relevance. Learning outcomes are enhanced by relating the subject matter of the FLC to the participants’ teaching, courses, scholarship, professional interests, and life experiences. All participants should be encouraged to seek out and share teaching and other real-life examples to illustrate these outcomes.
- Challenge. Expectations for the quality of FLC outcomes should be high, engendering a sense of progress, scholarship value, and accomplishment. Sessions should include, for example, some in which individuals share syllabi and report on their individual projects.
- Enjoyment. Activities must include social opportunities to lighten up and bond and should take place in invigorating environments. For example, a retreat can take place off-campus at a nearby country inn, state park, historic site, or the like.
- Esprit de corps. Sharing individual and community outcomes with colleagues in the academy should generate pride and loyalty. For example, when the community makes a campus presentation, participants strive to provide an excellent session.
- Empowerment. A sense of empowerment is both a crucial element and a desired outcome of participation in an FLC. In the construction of a transformative learning environment, the participants gain a new view of themselves and a new sense of confidence in their abilities. Faculty members leave their year of participation with better courses and a clearer understanding of themselves and their students. Key outcomes include scholarly teaching and contributions to the scholarship of teaching.
[i] “Introduction to Faculty Learning Communities.” Milton D. Cox (2004), pp. 5-23 in Building Faculty Learning Communities, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Number 97, M.D. Cox, and L. Richlin, eds.
[ii] “Professional Development through Faculty Learning Communities." Michelle Glowacki-Dudka and Michael P. Brown (2007), pp. 29-39 in New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, Vol. 21, No 1/2.
[iii] Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. Charles C. Bonwell and James A. Eison (1991). ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, No. 1
[iv] “Active Learning Spaces in the United States”. Stan Aalderink (2019), Educause Review. Available: https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2019/10/active-learning-spaces-lessons-learned-in-the-united-states