The first lecture in the Faculty Development Series broached the topic of Learning Communities. A Learning Community is 2 or more courses linked together by a common theme, where a core group of 25 students is co-enrolled in all the courses. Faculty teaching the linked courses work together to create assignments and activities that cross course boundaries.
Developing a learning community is a simple process with far reaching results. Faculty, who are interested in creating a learning community, should watch the Learning Community Training video that can be found on D2L. From there, the faculty of the learning community collaborate about a common theme, 1 integrated assignment and 1 out-of-course activity. Faculty are encouraged to communicate throughout the semester and to review the syllabi of the other members of the learning community to ensure that tests and projects don’t fall on the same day. For faculty interested in teaching in a learning community that do not have connections with others outside of their department, the Department of First-Year and Transitions Studies can facilitate those connections as well as the CHSS Dean’s Office.
Students in learning communities benefit from being able to make connections and friends that share experiences together in multiple courses. As the students in learning communities are usually in their first year, there is a built-in sense of belonging that comes with being in a Learning Community. These students are also more connected to the faculty who teach these courses because they engage with these faculty members outside of the classroom. Yet, students are not the only ones who benefit from learning communities. Faculty can gain diverse experiences as well.
For faculty members that regularly teach the same courses, teaching in a Learning Community is one way to rejuvenate static teaching experiences by adding diversity into normal course subjects. Teaching first year students enables Learning Community faculty members to permanently shape the college experiences of those students and leave a lasting impact. This is also a way for faculty members to spotlight students who have corresponding research interests.
Being part of a Learning Community shows a faculty member’s willingness to go above and beyond teaching expectations. In going above and beyond, faculty get lots of creative freedom to incorporate their chosen theme into their course however they choose. They also get to have unique experiences with other faculty members outside of their discipline. This can spark new research opportunities and collaborations. Another research opportunity Learning Communities offer faculty is the option to work with their students on current projects or as co-researchers on a course-specific project. Each year the Department of First-Year and Transitions Studies hosts a Learning Community Extravaganza, which features research done as a part of the Learning Community curriculum. Students get to show off their work, and the winning faculty members get a beautiful, shiny trophy.
Shiny trophies aside, being a part of a Learning Community offers faculty a tailored faculty development program, use of the Learning Community Lounge and Library as space to collaborate, and a mini-grant program for Learning Community teams to apply for small grants for a creative teaching idea that meets a Learning Community program outcome. These incentives are some of the many reasons that faculty might choose to join the Learning Community program, but the reason faculty keep returning to teach in the program is because of the substantial impact that learning communities have on the education of the students enrolled. When a program is such a win-win for both students and faculty, the only question left to ask is where can I sign up?
For more information about developing a learning community please visit: http://uc.kennesaw.edu/fyts/programs/learningcommunity.php
Posted: September 12, 2016