Office of Faculty Development
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.