Launching Faculty Learning Communities - How to Make the Magic Happen?

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) provide fun options for faculty development that create lasting change when provided with the right supports.  Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State launched an FLC pilot in the Spring of 2018.  Come see what we’ve learned and share some insights from your own FLCs.

Presenters

Dr. Stephanie Edel-Malizia is currently an Instructional Designer for Penn State University, with over 20 years of experience as a leader in instructional technology spanning the k-20 realm. She completed her Doctorate of Education at Delta State University with the dissertation Design and Implementation of Faculty Development for Student Required Internet Use. As a faculty member at Delta State, Dr. Malizia worked as an Instructional Designer and Instructor. Stephanie has ten years of experience as a Pennsylvania Department of Education certified Instructional Technology Specialist, working eight of those years as the Director of Instructional Media and Technology Services for a regional Educational Service Agency. She is also certified as a Superintendent of Schools and a 2013 graduate of the Institute for Educational Leadership Fellows program. Stephanie has taught graduate courses in instructional technology and pedagogy for Penn State DuBois, St. Bonaventure University, East Stroudsburg University, and Clarion University. Her conference presentations include the European Conference on E-Learning, Online Learning Consortium, Educause, The Teaching Professor Technology Conference and the International Society for Technology in Education.

Extended Abstract

Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) Faculty Learning Communities is a faculty led professional development program for tenure track and teaching faculty at any Penn State campus, who are interested in forming small communities where they can work with a group of peers for an academic year towards a shared goal.  The focus is on bringing together faculty who want to explore a shared idea, concept, or interest area that deals with teaching and learning. FLCs may also lead to research experiments, analysis of secondary data, grant proposals, manuscripts, or other forms of scholarship. 

In this session we will: 

  • Provide an overview of the TLT Faculty Learning Communities Pilot
  • Describe the Faculty Learning Communities selected to participate in the pilot
  • Facilitate participant engagement by conducting small group discussions on their own Faculty Learning Communities and/or the potential for FLCs at their own institutions.
  • Facilitate participant engagement through planned audience contribution activities designed to enable all participants to learn from each other.

 

FLC Pilot Overview 

Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology FLCs are faculty-led and faculty-driven with some ideal outcomes. Competitive candidates for FCL leader roles are asked to:

  • Attend a brief FLC orientation workshop
  • Identify, at least 3 additional people that have indicated interest in participating in the proposed FLC
  • Host a kickoff meeting for their community with a liaison from TLT
  • Schedule and facilitate regular meetings with their community
  • Attend and/or share their FLC outcomes at the TLT events
  • Write a summary report, outlining their FLC’s work throughout the year, that can be shared with TLT and on the TLT website

 

Penn State faculty were invited to propose any idea related to teaching and learning for an FLC with the guideline that those related to TLT’s strategic initiatives would receive priority. These TLT strategic initiatives include: learning spaces, scholarship of teaching and learning, faculty professional development, data science, immersive experiences, and open educational resources.

Faculty are incentivized with a small stipend ($500) in addition to some amount of funding (up to an additional $500) for conducting the FLC meetings (lunches, books, tech tools, guest speakers, etc.).  FLCs are led by a full-time faculty member and can be formed cross-college, cross-campus, and/or cross discipline.

TLT leadership decided to pilot the Faculty Learning Communities program in order to further provide services that align with the university strategic plan and that meet professional development needs of faculty. This program provides an opportunity to move our thinking forward in teaching and learning topic areas that are important to both faculty and TLT and to gain insights from faculty that might influence decisions related to future projects.  This program has the potential to create new pathways for faculty to collaborate with TLT.  Through Faculty Learning Communities, we aim to inspire excellence by seeding conversations for the larger university teaching and learning community that drive us towards transforming education. 

TLT has identified Stephanie Edel-Malizia, Instructional Designer, as the lead for the FLC pilot. Stephanie contributes her knowledge and expertise in faculty development, innovative pedagogies, scholarship, and instructional design in transforming education. Other TLT members including researchers, instructional designers, and multimedia specialists contribute expertise to support the FLCs. 

The TLT Faculty Learning Communities Pilot serves as a model for higher education entities who want to start similar programs to provide faculty with low cost professional development opportunities in the form of peer-led groups of faculty members who collaboratively engage in an active, structured program that provides encouragement, support, and reflection.

 

What FLC Leaders Can Expect

Faculty accepted into the FLC Program participate in a peer-led group of faculty members who collaboratively engage in an active, structured program to provide encouragement, support, and reflection around innovative instructional approaches. Some examples of what they experience include: 

  • Proposal assessment based on a) strength of topic area; and b) impact of expected outcome for individuals, group and community.
  • Guidance and instruction on best practices in creating and conducting Faculty Learning Communities
  • Acting as the lead in convening an FLC comprised of 3-8 faculty members, including recruiting the minimum number of required participants.
  • Determining a specific focus on a project or line of inquiry related to teaching and learning with technology 
  • Meeting once every three weeks during the academic year for activities such as seminars and/or activities that provide learning, development, etc
  • Creating space for discussion of, experimentation with, and/or reflection on complex questions 
  • Actively promoting collegiality and community development 

  • Organizing and guiding the meetings and supporting an active learning environment for all participants
  • Providing at a minimum a two-page summary report that can be shared and used as an archive for TLT FLCs.
  • Optional: Developing artifacts (videos, workshops, online resources, white papers, etc) that can be shared on the TLT website and other places, as appropriate. Each FLC decides their deliverables within the first two or three meetings. 
  • Optional: Presenting at a local or national conference regarding their experience. 

FLC Incentives

Faculty selected as an FLC leader receive a total of $500 from TLT as a stipend and up to an additional $500 for conducting the learning community as well as:

  • An embedded TLT member who participates as a somewhat passive participant and may assist in organizing and guiding FLC meetings and in supporting an active learning environment for all participants.
  • Opportunities to engage members of the PSU community in areas such as research, pedagogy, and technology to further the university's goal of transforming education.
  • Opportunities to inspire excellence through seeding conversations for the larger university teaching and learning community and driving Penn State towards transforming education. 

 

Pilot Assessment

TLT is facilitating assessment of the FLCs throughout the pilot.

  • TLT and FLCs collaborate to utilize the Qualtrics Survey Program. 
  • All FLCs participate in surveys, such as a mid-year survey and an end of the year survey. 
  • TLT collaborates with the FLC leaders to compile reports from the participant surveys and share them with the faculty and make any adjustments needed within the FLC based on the feedback. 
  • At the end of the academic year the FLC leaders and the TLT support team will work together to create a project report and/or white paper. 

 

Faculty Learning Communities included in the pilot

Over twenty different proposals for TLT Faculty Learning Communities were submitted to participate in the pilot, of which, there were approximately six FLC Leaders selected.  Communities represented multiple different academic interests and several different TLT initiatives which were identified in the RFP as: learning spaces, scholarship of teaching and learning, faculty professional development, data science, immersive experiences, and open educational resources.  Proposals selected for the pilot were representative of several Penn State University Commonwealth campuses as well as Penn State University Park campus.  Details for each FLC will be shared include specific project goals, deliverables, commiunity participants, meeting schedules and topics, and challenges and successes to date.

Participant engagement 

This session will facilitate participant engagement by conducting small group discussions asking them to share details about their own Faculty Learning Communities and/or the potential for FLCs at their own institutions and additional planned audience contribution activities designed to enable all participants to learn from each other.