Faculty Learning Communities foster thoughtful conversations about teaching and learning at Centre

Posted by Centre News in Academics, News 16 Oct 2014

FLC Writing Group PSTeaching is the top priority of Centre College’s faculty, and one way professors can refine their teaching methods and develop creative ways of engaging their students is by participating in Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs).

An initiative of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), Faculty Learning Communities are small groups of faculty colleagues who come together to learn about a particular topic of interest. FLCs serve to build camaraderie, enhance faculty collaboration within and across disciplines, and encourage reflection about teaching and learning. FLCs at Centre typically focus on discussing and promoting the most effective teaching strategies and cover a broad range of topics, from exploring productive learning environments for students with autism to capitalizing on the storytelling aspect of teaching.

New FLCs are funded each academic year through the CTL and according to Sarah Lashley, director of the CTL and assistant professor of environmental studies, current studies have confirmed the benefits of FLCs.

“Research shows that faculty members who participate in FLCs demonstrate an increased interest in teaching and learning, which is sure to positively impact our students,” explains Lashley.

Other FLCs, such as the Writing Accountability group (pictured above) that helps faculty accomplish their writing goals, supports faculty throughout their career development, which Lashley believes will also make a difference in students’ education.

“When faculty are really engaged in their own research it translates into the classroom,” she says. “It’s keeping alive the passion for what it is they love to do.”

Lashley also notes that another important asset of FLCs is the collegiality it fosters.

“FLCs build relationships among faculty across academic divisions,” she says. “They bring together faculty to talk about teaching and learning who might not otherwise do so.”

Ellen Prusinski, coordinator of engaged and experiential learning and assistant professor of education, has convened a new FLC to develop Centre’s community-based learning programs and is grateful for the opportunity to work with her peers toward a common goal.

“As we consider the role that community-based learning might play on our campus, I am personally very pleased to be able to discuss fundamental questions about the practice with colleagues whom I respect and whose perspectives I value,” says Prusinski. “I think that having conversations such as these helps ensure that we take a thoughtful, well-informed approach to teaching, scholarship and community work.”

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Robyn Cutright also values the collaboration FLCs afford and has convened an FLC that is interested in guiding students toward an empathetic understanding of marginalized people in the traditional classroom format. She believes FLCs can function as support systems through which faculty rely on each other for resources and motivation.

“One of the things I like most about being a professor at Centre is being able to participate in an ongoing conversation about teaching,” says Cutright. “This happens formally, through CTL’s pedagogy luncheons for example, and informally in the break room. I love being able to use my colleagues as a resource when I need to problem solve and as a spur to try new things and be creative, and FLCs are just another way that this happens.”

Ultimately, it is up to faculty members to make FLCs a success, and Lashley says she has been impressed by the initiative and dedication they have shown.

“The effectiveness of our FLCs is really just a reflection of the commitment to teaching and learning that our faculty here at Centre have.”

Learn more about FLCs at Centre on the CTL website.

by Caitlan Cole

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