Five Faculty Learning Communities Established
The Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence (ATLE), formerly the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence, has a new name as well as a new mission. At the center of the ATLE initiative are five Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), small groups of self-directed faculty from a variety of disciplines who study and collaborate in an interactive, yearlong program to enhance teaching and learning. The experience with this innovative practice in professional development has demonstrated that FLCs increase faculty interest in teaching and learning and provide a safe environment in which faculty can investigate, question, explore, and apply new or different classroom techniques. Each one of the five FLCs is led by a Faculty Fellow, who selected a topic and designed the course of study in consultation with FLC members and ATLE staff. Each community has a distinct focus, but together, they function as a complimentary system designed to strengthen support for faculty in an effort to enhance instruction. The five FLCs are:
Service Learning. The goal is to examine ways to increase student involvement with community organizations such as a social service agency and includes a classroom component intended to engage students to reflect upon their experiences in service to the community.
Teaching with Technology. The group will explore innovative practices that enhance teaching, learning and ultimately, student success with the use of technology.
STEM community. Faculty, advisors and students in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are exploring methods to improve instruction and promoting experiential learning critical to success in those areas.
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). This community will actively engage faculty to approach teaching as a process worthy of being studied, documented and constantly re-evaluated.
Positive Learning Environments. Faculty will explore ways in which instructors can create and maintain a positive learning environment in the classroom.
Dr. Cheryl Ellerbrock (College of Education), Faculty Fellow for the Positive Learning Environments FLC, explained what her community is doing: “We are piloting the new University and College Teaching online professional development program called Portals to Teaching Success (POTS). Specifically, we will be investigating the section on ‘Creating a Comfortable Environment’ that is a part of the ‘Making the Most Out of Discussion’ module.”
Each FLC has a modest budget devoted to their development as individual faculty and as a group, according to Dr. Diane Williams, Senior Director for the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence. Each FLC has a goal or product to accomplish or produce by the end of the spring semester. What we have seen to date is that faculty are genuinely excited about the opportunity to reflect on their craft, share experiences, and explore ways in which they can promote student success in the classroom.