The disruption caused by COVID-19 has irreparably changed our current and future college students, leaving educators struggling to understand what is likely to be a “new normal” that less and less resembles the teaching and learning experiences we knew from just three years ago.
At COD, faculty forums, discussions, and panel presentations have highlighted the challenges that we’re facing in the classroom. Communities of practice are one way to extend the conversation into action.
This fall, COD Faculty Development will be launching a Communities of Practice pilot program around teaching and learning in gateway courses.
A community of practice (CoP) is a group of practitioners who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to share resources and ideas, build connections, solve problems, and create collective knowledge that directly impacts their practice.
There are four basic types of communities:
Unlike committees or working groups, communities of practice are faculty-driven development opportunities that create a space for instructors to engage in meaningful and productive reflection on their teaching and classroom experience. Members co-create a collegial and supportive environment with shared ownership for the purpose, value, and outcomes they hope to achieve.
Gateway courses not only provide students with the requisite knowledge for further study in an academic program, but they also represent many students’ first exposure to college teaching and learning. Successful experiences in gateway courses lead to future success in subsequent classes. Research, however, has found that entry-level courses with high DFWI rates represent a barrier to further academic progress, essentially demotivating students from completing their education—the impact of these “killer” gateway courses is disproportionately shouldered by first-generation, low income, and historically underrepresented students (Koch & Pistilli, 2015; Koch & Drake, 2018).
By examining barriers to success in gateway courses and through an exploration of teaching and learning possibilities, we can provide students with the resources they need for their academic careers and their personal and professional lives.
While communities of practice are a new form of professional development at COD, the kind of collaboration, innovation, and peer partnership they represent is part and parcel of our identities as COD faculty. FPD@COD will be hosting a few information sessions this spring and summer and a two-day Community of Practice “institute” in July will set new communities up for academic-year success.