Communities of Practice

Is there an area of teaching and learning that you would like to discuss in more depth?  Are you curious about how you can use high impact practices or other evidence-based learning techniques in your classroom? What about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)?  Would you like to discuss and share your ideas with others who share similar interests?  That’s what Communities of Practice (COPs) are all about.  The Teaching and Learning Forum is excited to provide an opportunity for you to participate in a community of practice in the upcoming year.  

What is a Community of Practice?

A Community of Practice is a group of 8-12 people who share a common concern, passion about a topic and come together with a facilitator to deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting with each other on an ongoing basis (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002 p. 4).  At Weber State, these communities of practice are groups of faculty and staff who commit to regularly scheduled sessions on a focus area in teaching and learning followed by actions such as planning and trying out the techniques discussed in the group.  Your community will provide a supportive environment where members can experiment with new approaches to teaching and learning, share successes and challenges, and/or engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) through collaborative research projects and dissemination of instructional practices and tools. 

Sign-up here.

Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, & William Snyder, 2002).Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

What are the goals of a Faculty Learning Community?

  • To promote faculty interest in teaching and learning, especially for undergraduate students.
  • To create collaborative spaces in which faculty connect with colleagues across disciplines.
  • To promote the exploration and study of theoretical and practical perspectives on teaching and learning.
  • To pilot short term or semester-long activities in classes or in our broader work with students.
  • To increase faculty capacity to apply evidence-based research to undergraduate education.
  • To cultivate reflective practitioners by reflecting upon individual and collective experiences.

Participant Outcomes:

Participants in learning communities should be able to demonstrate at least two of the following:

  • Integrate research-based, learner-centered, and/or inclusive pedagogies in their teaching.  Related activities could include reviewing and revising course materials such as syllabi, learning outcomes, and class activities.
  • Leverage collaborative relationships with colleagues across disciplines on topics related to learning-centered instructional innovation and student success.  Related activities could include sharing experiences, successes, and challenges with colleagues in the learning community; providing feedback on observations and/or research design and implementation.
  • Disseminate practices and scholarship with the broader teaching community at and beyond WSU.  Related activities might include sharing work through presentations, sharing instructional resource materials, and/or presenting findings at a TLF event, an external venue or through publication.

What are the Benefits of Joining a Community of Practice?

  • Participants become members of a community of peers with shared interests in teaching and learning at WSU.
  • The community provides an inclusive space where members share experiences, ideas and strategies about teaching; experiment with evidence-based practices; build skills; engage in SoTL research; and reflect on their roles as educators. 
  • Each learning community is given a $500 budget to be used as the group determines will best meet the needs of the group (ie, books, supplies, lunches, etc.).
  • Members of learning communities can include their participation as professional development efforts to improve teaching on tenure and promotion documents and faculty annual reviews.  When you make changes to your teaching based upon your participation in a faculty learning community, you can explain those changes as innovations in the aforementioned documents.
  • Participation in a Faculty Learning Community is part of the “Ten Before Tenure” initiative.

Community of Practice Expectations

  • COP members will actively prepare for, attend, and participate in community meetings.  (COPs will likely meet once or twice a month, depending on the group and its goals.  The semester schedule will be set during the first meeting).
  • Each group will submit an executive summary and reflective analysis of their COP participation by June 1, 2018.
  • COPs will be expected to share their learning, activities, and their reflections at the TLF Symposium during Spring Semester.
  • Each COP will also provide some sort of deliverable that can be shared with a larger audience (either at WSU or an external venue). For example, you could select one or more of the following options:
    • Provide instructional resource materials (instructional tools, teaching strategies, videos,  annotated bibliographies,  presentational materials, etc.) on the topic of their COP for the larger teaching community at WSU.
    • Present their work at a conference venue beyond WSU.
    • Publish the findings of their work (through portfolios, white papers, academic journals, etc.)

2017-2018 Communities of Practice

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Facilitators:  Alex Lancaster & Heather Chapman (Psychology & Institutional Research)

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a growing movement in higher education based on Boyer’s (1990) concept that teaching is scholarly work.  SoTL uses discovery, reflection, and evidence-based methods to research effective teaching and student learning. Members in this COP will be part of a collaborative research effort focusing on 1-2 SoTL projects decided upon by the group.  The desired outcome is publication of the group’s SoTL research.

Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Facilitator: Alice Mulder

The aim for this learning community will be to consider sustainability in the curriculum in higher education - teaching, learning and engagement.  Areas or topics that the group could take up might include: exploring practices in teaching sustainability, big questions in sustainability, local and regional sustainability concerns/case studies, ways to foster faculty and student learning and engagement in sustainability challenges and solutions.

Using Great "IDEAS" from Evidence Based Teaching Strategies

Explore the use of evidence-based teaching and learning approaches and implement them into your own classroom.  This COP will focus on using "Intentionally Designed Educational Activities" that contribute to student success in the classroom.

Facilitators: Kristin Hadley & Adam Johnston

Community Engaged Learning Introduction

Facilitators: Isabel Asensio, Melissa Hall

This community of practice provides faculty and staff with an introduction to community engaged learning. Members of this COP will explore community engagement pedagogies, student reflection design, reciprocal partnership building, community research models, community project design, and a variety of additional topics. Members will also network with community partners.

Members pick a meeting schedule that works best for the group with staff and faculty from the Center for Community Engaged Learning serving as mentors and facilitators. Community partners will also work with this COP to discuss successes and struggles with past collaborations.

This is a great opportunity for faculty looking to incorporate community engagement into their classes and those seeking publications with a community tie. Staff involved as adjuncts and with student leaders will also benefit from this introductory class as the group brainstorms ideas together.

Community of Practice – Community Engaged Learning 2.0

Facilitators: Isabel Asensio, Melissa Hall

This community of practice is designed for faculty who have taught four or more courses (it is OK if it is the same course) with a community engaged learning focus.  Participants will explore innovative ideas for reflection, course integration, motivating students, community partnerships, and learning outcomes and evaluation.  This group of faculty will glean ideas from each other, support each other in taking new steps in community engagement, and steer each other toward helpful research, writing and publishing avenues. Members will also network with community partners.

Technology in the Classroom

Facilitator:  Macey Buker

Focus on the many ways that technology can breathe new life into your classroom.  Whether you teach online, face-to-face, or both, you’ll discuss ways to enhance everyday teaching and learning as well as engage with your students.  This COP will explore the use of innovative technologies that meet your teaching objectives and learning outcomes, and

help you connect more deeply with your students.

Click here to sign up for a community of practice.