Students are provided with so many outlets and resources to encourage and promote their success while in college, but what about faculty members? What resources and outlets do they have on campus to promote their success in the various ventures they are a part of on a daily basis? Often times content-experts have the growing feeling that they are the Lone Ranger of education. Setting forth each day to educate the masses and hoping they are making an impact in the educational process of their students. Charging forth into the wild world of education as if on a solo mission. Well-equipped with the knowledge base within their field, many new instructors enter the classroom for the first time with little to no experience on how to conduct a class. They know the material. They know the expected learning outcomes. Getting from point A to point B, though, can be tricky if not prepared. There are some departments that provide resources through the form of mentoring to help with these learning experiences, but these departments are few and far between.
Everyone has that feeling or thought at some point in their career of, “Why am I the only one who cares about educating our students about environmentalism, social injustices, cleaner air, assessment, the feral cat population, globalization of education, fitness in education, service-learning, homelessness, local political campaigns, food preparation, <insert your passion here>?”. Chances are you’re not. According to HR at USM, there are 990 faculty members (as of 2012). This Lone Ranger feeling, regardless of the amount of teaching experience, does not have to happen because it is not the reality of higher education. A band of educators can be found on campus working towards the same mission or goal as you. Finding those like-minded educators and bringing them together is the key.
A growing trend in higher education is faculty learning communities. These small groups of faculty members are not limited by disciplines. These groups perform best when membership is cross-disciplinary. Providing an avenue for collaboration and opening the door for conversation, faculty learning communities serve as stimulants for growth and creativity within the realm of faculty. Content-experts are given the time and space to explore their passions within education with others of differing backgrounds to create new opportunities for students and their campus as a whole.
What are some areas you would be interested in seeing within a faculty learning community?
An opportunity to learn more about creating faculty learning communities at Southern will be coming soon. Stay tuned!