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Highlights from Past Faculty Learning Communities


2016/17 Faculty Learning Communities

Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) are cross-disciplinary groups of faculty, numbering roughly 8 to 12 members, engaged in active, collaborative learning throughout the academic year around a specific theme and toward defined outcomes. At MSU Denver, FLCs vary by theme or by cohort, but they all have in common a connection to the University’s teaching mission along with a commitment to taking scholarly approaches toward meeting that mission. 

Ten FLCs were supported in 2016-17, a 33% decrease from the fifteen FLCs supported the previous year. A total of 93 different faculty and staff members participated, a 43% decrease in participation from the previous year.

The New Faculty Institute is an FLC that builds upon New Faculty Orientation by offering a series of six conversations over the full academic year to facilitate new faculty to meet again and discuss their experiences. Facilitated by Jean Rother (Nursing) and Michael Kolb (CFE, Anthropology), this FLC used chapters from Learner Centered Teaching by Maryellen Weimer. The benefit of these conversations was constructive camaraderie and shared experiences as well as joint discussion of best classroom practices. Fourteen first-year faculty participated in the New Faculty Institute. Faculty rated this FLC very favorably (4.9 out of 5 on a Likert scale). They stated in open-ended feedback that the New Faculty Institute “presented information that answered many of my questions and questions that I had not even considered” and “helped me to understand the expectations for tenure track faculty at MSU and to make connections with peers across campus.”  Comments also included: “I formed a network and got valuable advice on many aspects of being a new faculty member at MSU Denver. I became part of a group immediately, and enjoyed sharing experiences with other new members.”

Cynthia Dormer (Nutrition) facilitated the Rapport and Retention Interventions FLC that explored how to plan and administer a campus-wide workshop on classroom and online techniques to support student rapport, retention and eventual graduation.  They have a Life and College Success presentation that shares their insights.

Sheila Rucki (Political Science) facilitated the Developing a Student Growth Mindset for Academic Success FLC that reviewed current research on the influence of a growth mindset on the academic success of students of color, first-generation students, and other students at risk of stopping out of college in their first year. They organized a Mindset for Success presentation at the 2017 Spring Forum on Mindset.

Three FLCs were offered in co-sponsorship with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  All focused upon promoting inclu­sive teaching and learning on campus. Crafted with collaborations with numerous faculty and staff in multiple depart­ments, these FLC fea­tured dynamic discussions, interactive formats, and practical strategies that participant could immediately implement in their classes or units.

Tanya Greathouse offered her FLC entitled Diversity Learning Community:  Multicultural Awareness and Beyond in both Fall 2016 and Spring 2017. This was an Interactive Learning Community.  That focused upon Intercultural Developmental Inventory, used to lay ground work for us to have common language and assess and review our personal multicultural orientation and learn how we respond in cross-cultural situations, we will learn about implicit biases and gain an appreciation of how they inform our interpretation of situations and practice facilitating critical conversations.

Steven Rissman (Health Professions) offered his Growing Up Men FLC in the fall of 2016. His goal was to examine what is going on with men and to explore cross-curricular avenues for helping men to thrive, bringing together faculty who are currently teaching specific topics related to the issues affecting men’s lives (college men and the community at large), and/or faculty who have an interest in embedding these topics into their curriculum.

The Assessing Authentic Learning FLC was facilitated by Emily Matuszewicz (Health Profession) and co-sponsored with the Individualized Learning Center. The goal of this FLC was to explore how student ePortfolios could be used in classrooms across campus.  Members sought out departments and developed a pilot ePortfolio program that was tested in a number of departments with shared interest in using an ePortfolio in the classroom.

Two FLCs specifically addressed classroom pedagogy. Mona Mocanasu and John Either (Mathematics) facilitated an FLC titled Effective Methods for On-line Mathematical Instruction that focused upon ways to build a community to study effective methods for online instruction. This will benefit not just the instructors for online (or mostly online) courses, but also instructors that want to implement effective online tools in their courses.

Jeffrey Loats (Physics) facilitated the Just in Time Teaching FLC that assisted participants in employing the Just in Time Teaching method of student engagement. Participant reflections include: “The JiTT FLC was exceptionally well designed. I received the information in the right formats and doses – and at the right time in the process – in order to get the most out of our meetings together. Obviously, it was important that the JiTT process was modeled in the FLC. Jeff provided excellent questions and was adept at incorporating it into our group meetings. I also enjoyed the small-group sessions, where we were able to test out our ideas for incorporating JiTT.” “By implementing JiTT in my PR in Crises course, I believe students will be held more accountable for reading the material and being prepared for class, and for applying what they read to our classroom discussions. I anticipate this will make our conversations more thought provoking and meaningful in grasping new concepts. This may also help me better identify areas of the material that require more explanation and examples to help students grasp new concepts.” “Just in Time Teaching fits my teaching philosophy perfectly. A key strategy in any course I teach is to foster the students’ motivation to learn.”

A summer FLC on On-Line Teaching was run in June 2017 by Chris Jennings (Journalism and Technical Communications) in order to meet needs of faculty developing on-line courses. The focus of this FLC was on the pedagogy of instructor presence rather than technological innovations. Faculty who participated in this FLC rated it very favorably (4.8 out of 5 on a Likert scale). In open-ended feedback they found this to be a “great FLC” and “that all departments would benefit from this type of focused workshop relating to online teaching.” They also stated that it was “really nice to see faculty needs/conversations, etc. on such an authentic level” and “I learned how to create a video lecture/presentation for my online course and was able to record video for one of my online courses.”

Early Career (2011/12)
Members of the Early Career FLC in 2011/12 co-facilitated a well-attended workshop as part of MSU Denver’s Spring Forum on March 30, 2012. The title of the workshop was “Adopt-a-CAT: Engaging Students with Classroom Assessment Techniques.” The promise made to participants was that by the end of the workshop, they would be able to:

  • Explain what CATs are and why they’re useful.
  • Choose a CAT that is appropriate to the discipline and circumstances of their course(s).
  • Identify a CAT for immediate use in their course.

Materials prepared for the workshop include a PowerPoint slide deck that provides the framework for understanding CATs and a CATs Quick Reference Guide .

During the workshop, participants were asked to complete a minute paper, answering the questions “what is the most important thing you learned in this session?” and “what questions remain?” This document containing the CAT minute paper results is a written summary of comments and questions (with answers provided) that was shared back with participants after the workshop.


Migration and Migrant Students in Higher Education (2011/12)

Members of the 2011/12 FLC on Migration and Migrant Students in Higher Education facilitated a workshop at the Spring Forum on March 30, 2012 entitled “Citizenship—the Other Diversity in the Classroom: Scenarios and Best Practices for Promoting Classroom Sensitivity to Citizenship Status” This PowerPoint slide deck, Classroom Strategies to the Topic of Immigration framed the discussion, and in an activity, pairs of workshop participants responded to hypothetical classroom scenarios with counterpoints and data provided in this immigration“myths” handout .


New Faculty (2010/11)

The 2010/11 New Faculty FLC collaborated on the “annotated syllabus” project, which makes public the intellectual work of teaching. The annotated syllabus is a format for prompting the reflection that goes into course design and for fostering a systematic approach to instructional growth and development. You can view the group’s annotated syllabi here. Members of the FLC also presented the poster “Annotated Syllabi: Making Visible our Collaborative Work in Instructional Development” at the 2011 Spring Forum: Teaching and Learning at MSU Denver.


Critical Conversations (2009/10)

The Critical Conversations FLC, which ran during the 2009/10 academic year, has published an article, “From Difficult Dialogues to Critical Conversations: Intersectionality in Our Teaching and Professional Lives” in volume 125 of New Directions for Teaching and Learning: An Integrative Analysis Approach to Diversity in the College Classroom.

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