Whether you call them communities of practice, learning cohorts, or inquiry groups, research demonstrates that small peer-led groups of faculty coming together over the course of a semester or year have a significant impact on pedagogical innovation and scholarly teaching (Furco & Moely, 2012; Richlin & Cox, 2004), faculty interest and confidence in teaching (Cox, 2004a), as well as student learning (Daly, 2011; Tinto, 2003). To differentiate these educator-focused communities from COD's student-oriented Learning Communities program, we will use "FLC" for faculty learning cohort.
Cox (2004b) describes the FLC as a "cross-disciplinary community of 8-12 faculty (and sometimes professional staff) engaged in an active, collaborative, yearlong program with a curriculum focused on enhancing and assessing student learning and with frequent activities that promote learning, development, transdisciplinarity, community building, and the SoTL [scholarship of teaching and learning]" (p. 163).
Here are a few examples of why you might want to form an FLC.
Courses that are designed to be self-paced often pose challenges for the learner, especially around feelings of isolation and lack of motivation. “By convening a group of learners who are interested in a similar topic, you’ve got the basis for an open, collaborative learning environment that has the potential to be the support system that many learners need. Peer learning can create a rich learning environment in which everyone simultaneously teaches and learns, acts and observes, speaks and listens.” (P2PU Learning Circles Facilitator Handbook, www.p2pu.org).
While FPD Reading Seminars are faculty development offerings open to all faculty and teaching staff at COD, the reading seminar or reading group model can be an effective FLC, especially when sustained for a semester or longer. Groups can be formed around a single text, a topic, or series of articles. For additional options, consider including podcasts or films.
An inquiry group is a community of practice built around examining topics of special interest. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching describes faculty inquiry as “a form of professional development by which teachers identify and investigate questions about their students’ learning.”
Inquiry Groups are also known as teaching communities and faculty interest groups.
In The Promise of Faculty Inquiry for Teaching and Learning Basic Skills, Mary Huber writes that “the core work of faculty inquiry involves instructors asking questions about the teaching and learning that goes on in their own classrooms; seeking answers by consulting the literature, gathering and analyzing evidence, and engaging students in the process whenever possible; using what they find out to improve the experience of their students; and sharing this work with colleagues so that they and their students can benefit too. Usually, questioning begins with a problem the instructor has perceived—something that’s not going right.”
What do inquiry groups do?
(from Leading Faculty Inquiry Groups, Carnegie Foundation)
Affinity groups or spaces provide participants with common interests a collective voice, sense of community, and both professional and personal support.
On the useful guide www.communityofpractice.ca, the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium defines a community of practices as:
"a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. CoPs often focus on sharing best practices and creating new knowledge to advance a domain of professional practice. Interaction on an ongoing basis is an important part of this. Many communities of practice rely on face-to-face meetings as well as web-based collaborative environments to communicate, connect and conduct community activities" (ERLC).
Cox, Milton D. "Introduction to faculty learning communities." New directions for teaching and learning 2004, no. 97 (2004): 5-23.
Cox, Milton D. "Fostering the scholarship of teaching and learning through faculty learning communities." Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 14, no. 2/3 (2003): 161-198
Daly, Cheryl J. "Faculty learning communities: Addressing the professional development needs of faculty and the learning needs of students." Currents in Teaching & Learning 4, no. 1 (2011).
Furco, Andrew, and Barbara E. Moely. "Using learning communities to build faculty support for pedagogical innovation: A multi-campus study." The Journal of Higher Education 83, no. 1 (2012): 128-153.
Gomillion, David, Aaron Becker, Jordana George, and Michael Scialdone. "Learning How to Teach: The Case for Faculty Learning Communities." Information Systems Education Journal 18, no. 4 (2020): 74-79.
Richlin, Laurie, and Milton D. Cox. "Developing scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning through faculty learning communities." New directions for teaching and learning 2004, no. 97 (2004): 127-135.
Tinto, V. (2003). Learning better together: The impact of learning communities on student success. Higher Education monograph series, 1(8), 1-8.