“Academic culture… infamous for fragmentation, isolation, and competitive individualism” -Parker Palmer in¬†Creating Campus Community

 

As instructors we challenge our students to think critically about the material and attempt to create new experiences so that they will grasp and understand the concepts on a deeper level. Often times we do this through group work. Following that line of thinking, why wouldn’t “group work” work for faculty? In a not-so-formal definition, this is the structure and intention of faculty learning communities- pulling together a group of faculty (and possibly staff) with a common interest in order to generate new ideas and creations.

 

Yesterday we, the Think Center and Learning Enhancement Center, hosted a webinar which walked us through the process of creating faculty learning communities. We had ten faculty members in attendance from across campus who represented a variety of disciplines. The webinar was full of useful information and tips on creating productive and effective learning communities. Dr. Milton Cox of Miami University in Ohio presented the information in a very systemic and easy to follow manner. A quick outline of the presentation covers the power of community, 7 reasons why FLCs originated and are needed, 16 recommendations on creating a FLC, examples of functioning FLCs, 12 decision points when creating a FLC, and an overview of the effectiveness and success of the communities.

 

After the presentation attendants shared how they feel the information can be useful in their fields as well as across disciplines. From these conversations the Think Center staff are now brainstorming how we can help in the effort. Be on the lookout for potential proposal opportunities where the Think Center would assist in the creation and facilitation of learning communities that faculty members wish to create/be a part of on campus.  Potential learning communities ideas for Southern Miss that arose in conversation were research mentors for junior faculty members, sustainability curriculum, online instruction, biology lab instructors, curriculum development, and more.

 

What do you think about Faculty Learning Communities? What would you be interested in pursuing in a community atmosphere?

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The Student Think Center is an initiative of the Learning Enhancement Center at The University of Southern Mississippi funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Strengthening Institutions Program [Title III Part A] for $1,954,151 over a five year period.

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thinkcenter@usm.edu

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