9. Community

Ten Necessary Qualities for Building Community In Faculty Learning Communities

The focus on community is what makes FLCs different from a faculty seminar series, committee, or action learning set. Since the size of your FLC is relatively small, the task is often achieved without difficulty. Examples of community-building activities will be available in the sections on “social amenities and gatherings” and on the FLC website. The following qualities guide the design and process of building community.

  1. Safety and Trust. In order for participants to connect with each other, there must be a sense of safety and trust. This is especially true as participants reveal weaknesses in their teaching or ignorance of teaching processes or literature.
  2. Openness. In an atmosphere of openness, participants can feel free to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution. For example, in the Community Using Difference, participants are able to point out and discuss ways that other participants or colleagues may offend them.
  3. Respect. In order to coalesce as a learning community, members need to feel as though they are valued and respected as contributors and as people. It is important for the university to acknowledge their participation by financially supporting community projects and attendance at conferences.
  4. Responsiveness. Members must respond to each other, and the facilitator(s) must respond quickly to the other participants. The facilitator should welcome concerns and preferences and share these with individuals and the community.
  5. Collaboration. The importance of collaboration in consultation and group discussion on individual member’s projects is key. Achieving learning outcomes hinges on the group’s ability to work with and respond to each other. In addition to individual projects, joint projects and presentations should be welcomed.
  6. Relevance. Learning outcomes are enhanced by relating the subject matter to the participants’ teaching, courses, scholarship, and life experiences. All should be encouraged to seek out and share teaching and other real-life examples that are relative to the FLC’s objectives.
  7. Challenge. Expectations for the quality of outcomes should be high, engendering a sense of progress, scholarship, and accomplishment. Sessions should include, for example, those in which individuals share syllabi and report on their individual projects.
  8. Enjoyment. Activities must include social opportunities to lighten up, bond, and should take place in invigorating environments. For example, a retreat can take place off campus at a nearby country inn, state park, historic site, or the like.
  9. Esprit de Corps. Sharing individual and community outcomes with colleagues in the academy should generate pride and loyalty. For example, when the community makes a campus-wide presentation, participants strive to provide an excellent session.
  10. Empowerment. A sense of empowerment is both a crucial element and a desired outcome of participation in a learning community. In the construction of a transformative learning environment, the participants gain a new view of themselves and a new sense of confidence in their abilities. Faculty leave their year of participation with better courses and understanding of themselves and their students. Key outcomes include scholarly teaching and contributions to the scholarship of teaching.

 

This project has been supported in part by grants from the US Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) and the Ohio Board of Regents.