Office of Faculty Development
Until recently, the academy has viewed the leadership function much as it has regarded teaching: with the assumption that explicit preparation and continuing development is unnecessary. In relation to teaching, it had been widely assumed that attending to the intellectual content of one’s discipline was all that was necessary—quality teaching would naturally follow. This assumption about teaching has been successfully challenged. Academic leaders now recognize that explicit preparation and thoughtful reflection about one’s performance is also valuable for a successful academic medical career, whether “leading in place,” participating in the Senate, chairing a department, or other leadership roles. CDU recognizes that enhanced leadership practices impact the effectiveness and satisfaction of the broader academic community.
Possible issues that the an academic faculty member might choose to study in depth include enhancing personal productivity (juggling the roles of administrator, faculty member, scholar, teacher, counselor, advocate, entrepreneur, mentor, politician, and friend); aligning administrative and faculty views of change; securing upper administration and faculty commitment to ideas; leading change; leadership styles; the difference between leadership and administrative roles; developing trust; turning groups into high-performance teams; personal empowerment; improving academic and administrative processes; defining academic quality; principles of continuous improvement; positive political skills; faculty assessment; mentoring junior faculty; and avoiding professional "burnout."
Lucas and Associates, in their book Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Departmental Chairs (2000, Jossey-Bass), refer positively to using a learning community concept for leadership development. In the book’s final chapter, "The Academy as Learning Community," Senge concludes that [T]he only way to continue this collective learning process was to work more collaboratively across many organizations. Only then would people see just how universal their deepest problems were. Only then would one company’s small steps be encouraging to others. Only then would the inevitable setbacks and crises that all organizations encounter not derail them—for they would be able to look at the progress that others were making and get themselves back on track. In a funny way we rediscovered a very old idea. In facing the challenges of profound change, there is no substitute for collaboration—people coming together out of common purpose and willing to support one another so that all can advance. Without actually intending it, we began to create a learning community. (pp. 280-281)
There are a variety of approaches for enhancing academic leadership effectiveness and satisfaction; facilitating information exchange and documenting the collective wisdom and "best practices”; providing a support system for academic leaders; introducing participants to the myriad possibilities for leading colleagues in the enhancement of teaching, scholarship, and service; and developing and implementing individualized leadership development plans.
Background on Faculty Learning Communities
The work of Alexander Meiklejohn and John Dewey in the 1920s and ‘30s gave rise to the concept of a learning community. Increasing specialization and fragmentation in higher education caused Meiklejohn to call for a community of study and a unity and coherence of curriculum across disciplines. Dewey advocated learning that was active, student centered, and involved shared inquiry. A combination of these approaches in the late 1970s and ’80s produced a pedagogy and structure that has led, among other things, to students’ increased civic contributions, retention, and intellectual development. The term learning communities traditionally has been applied to programs that involve first- and second-year undergraduates, along with faculty who design the curriculum and teach the courses.
A faculty learning community (FLC) is a cross-disciplinary faculty and staff group of 8 to 12 members engaging in an active, collaborative, yearlong program with a curriculum about enhancing teaching and learning and with frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, development, interdisciplinarity, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and community building. In the literature about student learning communities, the word student usually can be replaced by faculty and still make the same point.
There are two categories of faculty learning communities: cohort-based and topic-based.
Cohort-based learning communities address the teaching, learning, and developmental needs of an important cohort of faculty that has been particularly affected by the isolation, fragmentation, or chilly climate in the academy. The curriculum of such a yearlong community is shaped by the participants to include a broad range of teaching and learning areas and topics of interest to them. These communities will make a positive impact on the culture of the institution over the years if given multi-year support. The examples of cohort-based communities are those for new or early-career faculty and for mid-career and senior faculty.
Each topic-based learning community is yearlong and has a curriculum designed to address a special campus teaching and learning issue, for example, diversity, technology, or cooperative learning. These communities offer membership to and provide opportunities for learning across all faculty ranks and cohorts, but with a focus on a particular theme. A topic-focused faculty learning community ends when the teaching opportunity or issue of concern has been satisfactorily addressed. Examples of topic-based communities are writing-across-the-curriculum; using technology across-the curriculum; advising; assessment; using simulation technology to enhance student learning; and other topics of interest.
Angelo, T. A. (2000). Transforming departments into productive learning communities. In A. F. Lucas & Associates (Eds.), Leading academic change: Essential roles for department chairs (pp. 74-89). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lucas, A. F. & Associates. (Eds.) (2000). Leading academic change: Essential roles for department chairs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Senge, P. M. (2000). The academy as learning community: Contradiction in terms or realizable future? In A. F. Lucas & Associates (Eds.), Leading academic change: Essential roles for department chairs (pp. 275-300). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass