Faculty Learning Communities

 

“FLC activities have provided many challenges to consider new teaching strategies and even reconsider some of my fundamental assumptions and premises about teaching. The resulting self-examination has been exciting, even when painful. I know I’m going to be a better teacher as a result of the changes I make and the better grounding of my current practices in current literature."

-Feedback from a past FLC member

What is a Faculty Learning Community?

A Faculty Learning Community (FLC) usually consists of a half-dozen faculty who meet bi-weekly. All FLCs are comprised of faculty from across the disciplines, which have one common goal: to explore the theme of "The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning". Each member develops a teaching project, which is presented at the Faculty Institute on Teaching and Learning (FITL) in the spring and posted in the RIT Digital Media Library.

In some FLCs the members also create teaching portfolios, which describe their projects, their philosophy of teaching, and their reflections about their experience in the FLC. Portfolios are posted in the Digital Media Library.

In a Faculty Learning Community, you do more than work on a teaching project. You get to know faculty from across the campus; you find camaraderie in shared challenges and goals; you collaborate to explore and to learn more about the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Since AY2001, RIT has offered a yearlong, interdisciplinary FLC for full-time faculty who honor teaching as an intellectual pursuit and want to enhance their effectiveness in the classroom. Beginning In AY 2009, the yearlong FLC was abbreviated and to run for two quarters. In addition, quarter-long FLCs are offered, on various specific teaching topics.

Why join a Faculty Learning Community?

  • When was the last time you took a step back and examined your teaching philosophy in depth – how you teach, what you teach, and why you teach? An FLC offers an opportunity to consider the answers to those questions, leading to self-discovery.
  • Many in our profession went straight from graduate school or from industry to the classroom, with little to no formal training in the art and science of teaching. You're not alone! An FLC can be a starting point to closing this "training gap".
  • FLCs provide a confidential, safe environment for open discussion of issues and new ideas in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Previous members say this is one of the aspects of an FLC they value most.
  • FLCs are cross-disciplinary, resulting in unexpected connections. Members are quick to discover similarities not only in their thoughts about teaching, but also in how they approach their individual disciplines. More than just similar teaching styles and philosophies – we have discovered, for example, that members have similar hobbies or have studied or taught at the same universities.
  • FLCs are diverse groups. Faculty enroll from NTID, engineering and sciences, computing and Liberal Arts, tenure- and non-tenure track, from novice to experienced.

If you wish to join an FLC, here is what will be asked of you:

  • Every FLC is a cohort, and you must be willing to make a commitment to your cohort. That includes attending biweekly meetings, participation in face-to-face and online discussions, and completion of assigned tasks.
  • There is a final product: Your teaching project, which includes a schedule for implementation of such. This is developed in steps, and FLC members share their research and ideas for their teaching projects.
  • You must apply to the FLC and be accepted. Your department chair must approve your participation.

Would you be interested in leading an FLC?

We always seek qualified FLC facilitators. If approved, you would lead a quarter-long FLC. The benefits of leading an FLC are many. They include:

  • The opportunity to share your expertise in, and passion for, a particular field or teaching project.You choose the topic of your FLC, the book you use, and the teaching project.
  • Development of your leadership skills.
  • Development of your own teaching skills, by learning from others.
  • Meeting like-minded faculty, and creating bonds across the disciplines.
  • Choosing your own meeting schedule.
  • $500 stipend is provided, to be used for your teaching project or research. We also provide $500 for materials for your FLC

TO LEARN MORE, contact Michael Starenko: mssetc@rit.edu 585-475-5035.

Faculty report their careers were reinvigorated by participation in an FLC. Samples of comments from feedback forms include:

I've spent so much time thinking about what I do, why I do it, how can I do it better! My teaching is much more focused.

For the first time, I see myself as a "university professor"... sounds a bit silly, but the opportunity to focus on education/pedagogy has been great. I feel like I can, in some way, "rise above" my discipline and learn more about me as a teacher because I can interact with others who have the same passion.

I have wonderful discussions about teaching with [my faculty] colleague. And, we have scheduled set times for these discussions...a true luxury that I doubt I would have pursued, if not for this project.

I learned that teaching is a skill that can be mastered and that there is research, and information available. I realize that young minds are so rich and resourceful, and to find the right way to reach them is a great responsibility. I also recognize that the responsibility of the professors is to be able to encourage the students not only to be interested in the process of learning, but also to develop a critical thinking mind.

It's amazing how similar such different fields can be!

I now know that my PhD did NOT prepare me at all for teaching and I have had very few good teachers as a student. I have met some definite role models in the FLC and am striving to become a better teacher. FLC has given me the time to work on this.

I am more demanding of myself and stretch to achieve.

A short history of Faculty Learning Communities at RIT

The idea for the Faculty Learning Community (FLC) project at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) originated at a 1996 Lilly Conference workshop. At that time, RIT’s only provider of faculty development was the academic support department, which offered occasional workshops on teaching and learning in addition to their main mission, working directly with students. The new academic support director attended the Lilly Conference looking for ways to build connections with faculty and enhance their understanding of pedagogy. Faculty learning communities appeared to be a perfect fit. However, the RIT environment and the timing were not right, so a great idea was tucked away, but not forgotten.

A new opportunity emerged in 1998, when Academic Senate revived the RIT Institute Effective Teaching Committee (IETC), with a charge to promote teaching excellence and build collegiality among faculty. Membership included faculty from each college, a dean, a library representative, and a representative from the academic support department. The IETC was interested in a proposal to start a faculty learning community. Milt Cox of Miami University was invited to campus, the IETC agreed to sponsor an FLC, the Provost offered financial and moral support, and three committee members attended FLC leader training. In the fall of 2001, the first RIT FLC (FLC1) was born. FLCs have been a part of RIT since.

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