Spotlight: Faculty Learning Communities promote excellence in teaching

Author: Shannon Chapla

| ||
| ||
p. Since the 1920s, “learning communities” on college campuses have been established to enhance the educational experience of undergraduate students. More recently, however, the concept has been extended to the faculty as a means to promote excellence in teaching.p. Through its Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, Notre Dame has embraced the new trend, creating what have come to be known as Faculty Learning Communities (FLC). Consisting of a multidisciplinary mix of five or more faculty members, FLCs focus on a specific instructional issue — from the latest in teaching technology to diversity to trends in student assessment. The University is one of eight institutions participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s FLC Consortium.p. “Teaching and learning at a university should never be a matter of ‘having arrived,’ and should always be ?work in progress,’” said Alexander J. Hahn, professor of mathematics and executive director of the Kaneb Center. “Teaching well requires continuous reflection and exploration about well-tested and novel practices and strategies and their impact. A Faculty Learning Community creates an ideal environment for such reflection and exploration, bringing together colleagues who have a passion for teaching and learning as well as expertise, experience and focused energy to a guided sequence of conversations.”p. The organization of the FLCs at Notre Dame seems to be unique among the institutions involved in the consortium, according to Joy Vann-Hamilton, assistant provost and FLC coordinator.p. “Whereas the other institutions have fairly rigorous processes for application to and involvement in their FLCs,? she said, ?we have been fortunate to organize many of our communities around existing interests to improve teaching and learning across disciplines.”p. Kaneb is sponsoring five communities during the 2003-04 academic year. They are: Statistics Group, led by Anthony Sindone, Department of Finance; Web Group, with David S. Hachen Jr., Department of Sociology; Teaching and Learning Ethics in a Laboratory Setting, led by Susan Sheridan, Department of Anthropology; Integration of Catholic Social Thought, led by Rev. William Lies, C.S.C., executive director of the Center for Social Concerns; and Teaching Foreign Languages, led by Paul McDowell, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.p. A retreat for all FLC participants will be held from 3:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 (Monday) in the lower level conference room of McKenna Hall. Discussions will be initiated by Milton Cox, director for Teaching Effectiveness Programs at Miami University of Ohio and director of the Faculty Learning Community Consortium. Cox will provide insights on how to energize effective learning communities and discuss their positive impacts.p. Designed to strengthen faculty interest in undergraduate teaching and learning, FLCs nourish scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching by increasing faculty collaboration across disciplines, as well as the rewards for excellent teaching. Several have resulted in additions to the curriculum.p. “Our faculty have taken advantage of the opportunity to develop or investigate ways to enrich the teaching and learning experience for their students and themselves,” Vann-Hamilton said. “For instance, through Jim McAdams’ involvement in the Web Group community he was able to implement a new course ? ‘Private and Public in the Age of the Net’? during the past academic year. In addition, the First Year of Studies now offers a course for non-statistics majors using a statistics textbook and a non-traditional instructional approach introduced last year by a visiting statistics group presenter.”p. The FLC project is supported by the education department’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, which provides funding for all of the institutional members of the FLC Consortium. In addition to Notre Dame, other member institutions are Miami University, Ohio University, Kent State University, Ohio State University, Claremont Graduate University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Indiana University Southeast.p. Applications are being accepted from Notre Dame faculty interested in joining one of the FLCs.p. Information is available by contacting the Kaneb Center at 631-9147.

TopicID: 4028