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Faculty Learning Communities

Faculty Learning Communities

What is a Faculty Learning Community?

A Faculty Learning Community (FLC) is a peer-led group of faculty members (6-12) who engage in an active, collaborative, year–long program, structured to provide encouragement, support, and reflection.  Each FLC focuses on a question, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, as members deepen their knowledge and expertise in the chosen area by interacting on an ongoing basis. In addition to the shared learning about the topic, all FLC members will work on a personal project that uses what they have learned to improve a specific course or program, and the group members collectively will share their knowledge and accomplishments with the wider university community.

FLCs have multiple goals.  First, faculty members have tended to work in isolation -- in silos, to use the popular metaphor -- especially where teaching is concerned. Research on FLCs shows that they are very effective at promoting collegiality and collaboration both within and between academic units.  Second, FLCs encourage innovation by creating a safe environment in which faculty can investigate, question, explore, and apply new or different classroom techniques.  Third, FLCs improve teaching and learning across campus, both in the group members' individual classes and as the groups' insights spread to colleagues inside and outside the department. Learn More about FLCs

2014-15 Faculty Learning Communities

Each FLC participant receives a $500 stipend to be used toward professional development costs related to participation in the community.

Teaching and Learning in Graduate Seminars
Jill DeTemple, Facilitator

This learning community explores the particular challenges of teaching graduate seminars for PhD students.  Topics will include adult learning, professionalization, strategies for teaching as part of a core sequence, and innovative ways to lead sustained discussion in small groups. 

Innovative Assessment Techniques
Mark Fontenot and Kate Canales, Facilitators

Increasingly, we are called upon to train students to have confidence in solving open-ended challenges, where answers might not be known at the project outset, where the “right” or “good” deliverable could be subjective, or where multiple outcomes are acceptable.  This learning community explores innovative methods for feedback, grading, and assessment for courses with these models at their core.

Higher Education in America: From National Policy to the Individual Classroom
David Doyle, Facilitator

This Faculty Learning Community studies the university and its core mission from the macro level of national policy, to the micro level of what happens in the classroom—and where the two overlap.  Readings range across the issues that confront the modern university’s role in our society—and how this role plays out in various parts of an institution—all the way down to the skills that an instructor is expected to teach in the classroom beyond his or her own field.  With higher education costs continuing to escalate, and employment following graduation often difficult to obtain—especially for certain fields of study—there seems no better time to step back and consider what the university’s role is in educating students, and in what the individual professor’s role is within this larger process.

The participant in this Faculty Learning Community should emerge with two-fold benefits: first, an awareness of what could be expected in the classroom, i.e. what are we expected to deliver and why?  Has this changed over time, or remained a constant?  How does one’s discipline of study impact this delivery?  As SMU continues to evolve and change itself, we will venture beyond the classroom also.  For instance, as we look to our new residential commons system the question necessarily arises as to the faculty’s role here.  And does teaching really take place in such a setting?  And if so, how?  Secondly, an acute awareness will emerge of how the individual classroom is implicated in larger university-wide policy.   In short, what impact does teaching have on our larger mission, and should we consider any significant changes to our teaching as a result?

Praise from Past Participants

"A wonderful opportunity to meet and work with colleagues from other disciplines and, as a group, focus on a singular topic that’s important to each of us."

"This has actually been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had since coming to SMU."

"I really enjoyed this program from beginning to end. Looking back on my experience as a whole, the top things I gained from the experience were

1) A variety of perspectives on students, pedagogy, and effective uses of technology in the classroom from faculty with different backgrounds,
2) Encouragement from seeing the passion and adventurous spirit of different faculty in different disciplines, and
3) A network of faculty from which I could seek advice and with which I could debate new ideas/approaches. The experience was long enough and intimate enough that I feel able to call on the group for advice in the future and hope the group will stay in regular contact."

"The most valuable part of it for me was simply having focused time dedicated to thinking about a particular area of teaching with like-minded people.  While teaching is a large part of what we as faculty do, the day-to-day practice of it often leaves little time for stepping back and thinking more philosophically about our practices, alternative methods we haven’t considered, and in this case the ways in which we could use technology (or use it better) to improve the classroom experience and/or attainment of learning outcomes.  The discussions we had . . .  got the 'teaching juices' of my brains going, which is in itself valuable and (to me) reason enough for the existence of the FLCs."

"I loved the diversity of our group – not only gender, but the diversity of our backgrounds and teaching areas."

"One of the most important things I gained from this experience was the opportunity to meet with colleagues from across the university, many of whom I had never met before. It was exciting to work with others who are passionate about their work, who want to improve their teaching."

Past FLCs at SMU

2013-14

Intrinsic Motivation and Play for Learning FLC

Teaching with Technology FLC (continuing from 2012-13)

2012-13

Teaching with Technology FLC

Rethinking the Writing Assignment FLC