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Friday, August 24, 2007

Faculty Learning Communities--Faculty development option

We are in the midst of organizational change where I work with the retirement of our President of thirteen years and the Interim Presidency of our Provost. Change for the sake of change is not good, but as a catalyst for improvement and development, it is powerful. As part of that change is a re-evaluation of how we, as a faculty, can work together to improve our teaching practices and thus improve the college. The Interim President is promoting a paradigm shift to a more student-centered learning environment, integrating technology as learning tools and resources. This change provides a wonderful backdrop for my KAM I (Social Change in Educational Technology in Higher Education) studies.

Rogers’ (1995) model for adoption and diffusion of innovation classifies adopters of innovations in five categories, they are: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. In the early stages of faculty development at --- College, most faculty were innovators or early adopters with high intrinsic motivation, computer technical skills, and a desire to teach using technology. In light of this, the primary focus with faculty was to provide training on the course tools and suggested applications leading toward success. This typically occurred in a computer laboratory with a small group of interested faculty. A few individualized sessions were also provided for support and follow-through with the training provided in the group session at the request of individual faculty members. However, other than the initial introductory face-to-face workshops offered by the Blackboard Administrator three years ago, no ongoing faculty training program exists to prepare faculty to develop their technological skills, to convert their courses to online, to use Blackboard efficiently or to incorporate technology into their teaching practices.

A holistic approach to supporting users in each of these stages is essential. As the late majority faculty are being “pushed” to integrate technology, the need to provide training and support in addition to technical training has become apparent. While large group, workshop-based training was sufficient for early adopters as an introduction to developing online or web-enhanced courses, it does not provide the detailed assistance necessary for the late majority. A campus-wide approach would allow for dialogue among faculty across all disciplines about best practices in technology integration, whereas "just-in-time," personalized support at the department/division level would enable faculty to adopt technology more seamlessly. I have proposed the development of faculty learning communities as a faculty development option to provide training and support as faculty endeavor to transform their teaching practices. Specifically, I have initiated a technology FLC--and hope to encourage other faculty to develop additional FLCs to address other needs such as retention, meeting the needs of the NET Generation, creating multi-disciplinary courses, etc.

"A faculty learning community (FLC) is a group of trans-disciplinary faculty, graduate students and professional staff group of size 6-15 or more (8 to 12 is the recommended size) engaging in an active, collaborative, yearlong program with a curriculum about enhancing teaching and learning and with frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, development, transdisciplinarity, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and community building" (Cox, 2004).

We had our initial meeting today. As a result of our brainstorm and discussion, the following cognitive goals were suggested:
1) develop expertise in accessing and utilizing online resources and tutorials;
2) broaden application of a variety of teaching strategies in order to better address student retention and persistence--including different learning styles, generational learning differences, student motivation, lack of technology skills as well as supporting under-prepared, disabled, and returning adult learners;
3) increase instructional technology competencies in the use of media, software, hardware, and Web 2.0 tools to enhance learning;
4) increase use of technology to streamline course administration and management duties such as record-keeping, attendance, gradebooks, and resource management.

Attitudinal goals include:
1) develop a culture of excitement and enthusiasm among participants for ongoing learning and self-improvement;
2) foster a collegial atmosphere among faculty;
3) encourage and support a community of practice (learners) willing to share expertise and experience.

Since one of the goals is to encourage the use of technology to streamline course administration and management, participants agreed to work together in a hybrid model. This model would allow collaboration beyond our abilities to meet together face-to-face as well as a means to manage our resources. We all agreed that there are numerous ways to approach our learning endeavor this year. We are to rank the following topics prior to our next session and determine a specific project or course in which to apply what we learn.

Potential topics for discussion

Adult Learning Theory
  • Andragogy
  • Transformative Learning
  • Social Learning
  • Constructivism
  • Brain-Based learning
Using Web 2.0 Tools
  • Podcasting
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • YouTube
  • Bookmarking tools such as de.licio.us
  • Slideshare
  • Collaboration such as Facebook, Stikipad
Integrating technology activities into teaching practices—beyond PowerPoint
  • Video/DVDs
  • Virtual Fieldtrips
  • Webpage evaluations
  • WebQuests
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Research activities
  • Reference documentation such as EasyBib
  • Note-taking/Outlining
  • Online Flashcards
  • Mind mapping/Concept maps/flow charts (using Inspiration)
Designing online learning environments
  • Web-enhanced/hybrid model
  • Synchronous vs. Asynchronous communication
  • Best practices for facilitating online discussions
  • Content development for the web
  • PDF Conversion of files
  • Organizing course content
  • Developing class units
  • Blackboard Basics
  • Advanced Blackboard
  • Elluminate
Alternative and Authentic Assessments
  • Online Assessments
  • Project-Based learning
  • Student Response Systems
  • E-Portfolios
  • Self-direction and Learning Contracts

Building Faculty Learning Communities (Vol 97)
Jossey-Bass series, New Directions for Teaching and Learning

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