Faculty Learning Communities
The Center for Teaching and Learning offers UGA faculty and post-doctoral scholars
the opportunity for cohort-based instructional development through its Faculty Learning
Communities (FLCs) program.
A Faculty Learning Community is a specifically structured community of practice that includes the key goals of building community, engaging in scholarly (evidenced-based) teaching, and the development of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Cox & Richlin, 2004). The CTL provides $750 to each FLC to support community activities. FLCs may have as few as six or as many as sixteen participants. Participants meet approximately once every three weeks during the academic year.
CTL FLCs have the additional goal of sharing the outcomes of their discussions with the larger teaching and learning community (either at UGA or beyond). This FLC Engagement Project (the FLC EP) might take many forms, such as a CTL workshop, resources for instructors at UGA, the development of curriculum to be implemented in academic courses at UGA, the submission of a journal article, a conference presentation, etc.
2023-2024 Faculty Learning Communities
The purpose of the faculty learning community is to build on the foundation from previous years related to developing and launching a mentoring certificate for faculty/staff to advance their learning related to mentorship. The goal is to provide resources to develop best practices and support for mentorship across the University.
The Capstone Initiative brings together instructors and coordinators involved in the capstone projects for various majors/degree programs across the University of Georgia to help develop an understanding of the various upper-level project-based courses offered at UGA and identify and promote best practices amongst the group. Furthermore, we would like to explore the opportunity of forming collaborative projects between the different capstone programs. Industry demands that our students communicate and collaborate with people of different backgrounds and expertise. As a leading university dedicated in providing relevant experiential learning opportunities for its students, we want to emulate the experience of working on a project in industry, where individuals are expected not only to work within their expertise/area, but also collaborate and coordinate with teams working on other facets of the project to ensure a successful overall outcome. Through understanding how each of the capstone/project-based courses are run, we work on establishing best practices for running and teaching these types of courses, as well as identify pathways for collaborations between programs to allow our students to tackle broader-scoped projects and gain experience not only working on a large project within their area of expertise, but also in coordinating and collaborating with students from dissimilar backgrounds and approaches on piecing together a finished product. The discussion of this FLC promises to enhance both the student experience in these capstone courses, as well as enable UGA to solicit larger/multidisciplinary projects for the capstone courses by leveraging not only the expertise of a particular college or major, but of the entire University of Georgia.
Are you curious about teaching in prisons or jails? Do you have experience teaching with justice-involved communities? If your answer to either question is yes, then this FLC is for you! The goal of this FLC is to create a community of faculty from around the university who are either interested in or well-skilled in a variety of approaches to teaching in correctional settings. We will learn about successes and challenges in starting and sustaining such programs. Because teaching in correctional facilities has unique benefits and challenges as compared to college-based classrooms, this FLC will offer opportunities to learn about what has been successful for faculty who have experience teaching behind bars, as well as opportunities to explore existing or new models for this kind of teaching practice for those who are interested but not experienced. Our work together will culminate in a toolkit of resources for faculty who are interested in starting or strengthening their teaching with justice-involved communities.
Recent years have seen a steep decline in the total number of tenure-track positions being posted on the academic job market. AAUP reports support this observation along with pointing out the growing number of temporary employment positions. Simultaneously, the discourse around Alt-Ac (Alternative Academic) jobs and careers has gained a lot of traction. The alt-ac umbrella (not to be confused with post-ac which is a term used to refer to jobs outside the university) essentially comprises of career tracks beyond the academe, positions outside of the traditional faculty member role, but housed within the university. Multiple publications and reports, scholarly and otherwise report a growing interest among students to understand, explore, and pursue alt-ac avenues for a career trajectory. This FLC is proposed with an objective of bringing together faculty members interested in exploring the alt-ac space from a myriad of perspectives: identifying alt-ac career spaces in their respective disciplinary contexts, advising students about nontraditional careers, getting access to alt-ac career-related resources and scholarship, and having conversations with peers in the university around their experiences related to this topic.
This FLC will bring together interdisciplinary faculty to explore teaching sustainability with the goal of developing a team-taught freshman odyssey course with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration. We will use our own courses as examples and opportunities for curriculum development and piloting new strategies, while broadening our own understanding of education and sustainable communities. We will emphasize the sharing and development of resources, opportunities for collaboration, and local application of global challenges.
To be effective, educators must not only master their discipline, but must also learn how to communicate with their students. They must deeply listen, engage appropriately, participate in the moment, and think on their feet. Not surprisingly, these same communication skills are essential to the work of the student as well. Improvisational theatre is an approach that has been used in many settings to promote and improve robust communication skills. This FLC will provide an orientation for improv techniques for faculty new to improvisational theatre as well as giving more experienced faculty a forum to expand on their skills. As a locus for both experiential work and discussion, the FLC will explore how the theory and practice of improvisational skills apply to pedagogy, critical thinking skills, and creativity.
This FLC invites faculty from across campus to explore generative AI (i.e., ChatGPT, DALL·E2, etc.) and the opportunities we might create—in and out of the classroom—to employ these new digital tools to create, investigate, question, and innovate. As faculty in a variety of disciplines are thinking about the potential use and limitations of AI for all sorts of academic activities (assignments, research, communication, etc.), we will consider benefits, challenges, and approaches to using (or not using) AI. We plan to address what AI is, what ethical factors we should reflect on, and how AI skills and experiences may empower students in their future studies and careers. In addition, the group will experiment with generative AI and explore academic research, public writing, and media around it. The FLC will work together to develop AI-related resources and engagement opportunities.
This ongoing FLC continues to work on action items supporting faculty in non-tenure-track (NTT) roles (e.g., lecturer, academic professional, clinical faculty, public service, research scientist, librarian, etc.). Building on prior years' work, the FLC will focus this year on topics including supporting new NTT faculty, building community, supporting a mentoring program, coordinating dossier writing groups, reviewing relevant UGA and USG policies, and providing relevant and up-to-date information through the website, nontenuretrack.uga.edu.
(facilitated by Julie Grainy)
The Service-Learning Scholarship and Research FLC supports faculty participants to understand, design and undertake scholarship of teaching & learning projects around academic service-learning pedagogy and related forms of community engagement. Participants should have experience with service-learning/community-engaged teaching. FLC participants will help identify a research question relating to the pedagogy (e.g., impacts on students, community, faculty, or institution) which can be undertaken as a team research project, and will be submitted for presentation at a national service-learning conference. For 2023-24, we will likely be continuing a focus on how service-learning supports student resilience, but may also take on additional research questions.
(facilitated by Paul Matthews)
There is a cross-disciplinary movement afoot to slow down and take note of the overlooked, the mundane, the aesthetics in the everyday. This FLC will try out several established observational approaches aimed at deepening our abilities to attend closely to the particularities of what or who we are seeking to engage with. The group will start with educator Patricia Carini’s (1927-2021) Descriptive Processes which she developed and refined over decades as co-founder of the Prospect School, an alternative school in North Bennington, Vermont. In her 1975 monograph, Observation and Description: An Alternative Methodology for the Investigation of Human Phenomena, Carini articulates several processes that bring into visibility an event’s or person’s interdependence with a constituting and ever-changing environment. According to Carini, a phenomenon, person, or place under observation is meaning-fully inexhaustible. This is because all observations involve immersion, entanglement of observer and observed, and creativity in processes of description. The function of recording, for Carini, “is to intensify the inquirer’s participation in the observed event” (1975, p. 21). Furthermore, every observer brings a unique point of view which is always limited, highlighting certain facets of a phenomenon while overlooking others. The importance of sharing one’s observations with others, then, becomes a crucial part of learning to see otherwise. Thinking with others intensifies the movement of reciprocity that flows through the “multiplicity of meanings” (Carini, 1975, p. 30) emanating from living and learning together. While Carini’s work focused on the longitudinal documentation of children as learners and makers, her approach transcends school contexts and is generative of deep questioning about the role of the observer, the observed, and the aims of observation and description for understanding and inquiry. Her work is significant for its prescience of the ontological turn in the social sciences and the current emphasis on the importance of describing and attending to particularities found in texts such as Shari Tishman’s (2017) Slow Looking: The Art and Practice of Learning through Observation, Alexandra Horowitz’s (2014) On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation, Arden Reed’s (2019) Slow Art: The experience of Looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell, or Andrew Light & Jonathan Smith’s (2005) edited book, The Aesthetics of Everyday Life. Readings like these will be brought into dialogue with Carini’s approaches as faculty in this FLC learn with and from each other the slow arts of observation, and consider their relevance to their own pedagogical and inquiry practices.
(facilitated by Melissa Freeman)
Do you help train TAs in your department? Do you supervise their instruction in some way? Do you just want to support their teaching development??? This FLC will facilitate interdisciplinary discussions among faculty so that we may identify what TAs across campus need to know before assuming their roles and taking on classroom responsibilities. We will also discuss the relevant training and support they need to become a successful TA. According to UGA TA Policy, all graduate students with instructional duties must complete an introduction to college teaching course (i.e., GRSC 7770 or departmental equivalent)—unless exempt—prior to or concurrent with the start of their TAship. With this in mind, we will collaborate and develop multi-disciplinary resources to support instructors and departments in their ability to teach this course effectively and foster the instructional development of TAs.
(facilitated by Kelly Ford)
Have you been using nontraditional assessment tactics (colloquially referred to as “ungrading”)? In this Faculty Learning Community, we will work with faculty already using alternative assessment to help refine, rethink, and document alternative methods of assessing student work in the classroom. Ungrading is an umbrella term that comprises several different methods of student assessment including Self-Assessment, Contract Grading, Specifications Grading, Peer Review, and Labor-Based Grading. FLC members will workshop their syllabi and refine their practices to think through methods of grading that are not A-F or 0-100 and find ways to give students more agency in the classroom. We will also consider opportunities and challenges for integrating ungrading into a higher education system based on grades and quantitative assessment
This FLC is aimed at faculty interested in adopting the best active learning strategies in their classrooms to better meet the learning needs of their students. Our goal is to bring together an interdisciplinary group of instructional faculty to support one another in developing active learning strategies and provide feedback and critique for one another. We plan to develop peer observation procedures that build upon existing guidelines, specifically focusing on the observation and evaluation of active learning. Peer observation is a great way to receive detailed feedback on your classroom techniques and build a portfolio built around teaching effectiveness to be used during annual evaluation, promotion, and tenure. One component of this FLC will focus on reviewing resources available through CTL and short readings that can provide a focus for informal discussion and idea sharing. The second component will include developing comprehensive active learning strategies for a particular course. Instructors will create pairs or small groups to conduct a peer observation process to review these course activities to continue refining the strategies. Those instructors working in a department with formalized peer observation will be encouraged to take their developed observation template back to the department to engage others in this beneficial evaluation process.
Follow this link (PDF) for more information about past CTL FLCs, 2007-2023.
For more information about the CTL’s Faculty Learning Communities, please contact Ameya Sawadkar.