General Information About Faculty Learning Communities at Miami University
The work of Alexander Meiklejohn and John Dewey in the 1920s and '30s gave rise to the concept of a learning community. Increasing specialization and fragmentation in
higher education caused Meiklejohn to call for a community of study and a unity and coherence of curriculum across disciplines. Dewey advocated learning that was active,
student centered, and involved shared inquiry. A combination of these approaches in the late 1970s and '80s produced a pedagogy and structure that has led, among other things,
to students' increased civic contributions, retention, and intellectual development. The term learning communities traditionally has been applied to programs that
involve first- and second-year undergraduates, along with faculty who design the curriculum and teach the courses.
The long-term goals of a faculty learning communities program for the University are to
build University-wide community through teaching and learning: Create a learning organization
increase faculty interest in undergraduate teaching and learning
investigate and incorporate ways that difference can enhance teaching and learning
nourish scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and its application to student learning
broaden the evaluation of teaching and the assessment of learning
increase faculty collaboration across disciplines
encourage reflection about liberal education and coherence of learning across disciplines
increase the rewards for and prestige of excellent teaching
increase financial support for teaching and learning initiatives
create an awareness of the complexity of teaching and learning
Each faculty learning community has its own specific goals and objectives, which the facilitator and members determine.
Each year the activities for these communities vary somewhat but are likely to include the following:
Seminars on teaching and learning. Recent topics include assessment of student learning, enhancing the teaching/learning experience through awareness
of students' intellectual development, sharing student and faculty views of teaching and learning, and topics selected from articles or books that participants
of the communities select to read. Some seminars are led by guest faculty; others are conducted by the participants themselves. In the second semester, the group
presents a seminar for the entire campus.
Retreats. An opening/closing retreat may be held in May, with the "graduating" community sharing information with the new participants on various
aspects of the program, such as seminar topics, student associate selection, and teaching projects. In the early fall, another campus or national teaching conference
is the setting for seminars with faculty from other universities.
Teaching projects. Community members pursue self-designed learning programs, including an individual teaching project, for which they receive financial
support. Past projects have included developing expertise and courseware for computer-assisted instruction; redesigning an ongoing course; and investigating,
learning, and trying a new teaching method. These projects are shared with the faculty at a campus-wide seminar.
National conferences. In November, each community is invited to participate in the annual Miami Lilly Conference on College Teaching, where
nationally known teacher-scholars interact with Miami faculty and guests from other campuses.
Faculty partner. Each community member selects a colleague to work with during the year. In the case of junior faculty, the person is an experienced
faculty member who serves as a mentor. Senior faculty community members pair up as in the New Jersey Partners in Learning model.
Student associates. Each participant selects one or two students who provide student perspectives on teaching, learning, projects, and topics
encountered in the community.
Course mini-portfolio. Each participant selects a focus course in which to try innovations and prepares a course mini-portfolio that analyzes and
provides evidence of student learning.
Each participant agrees to prepare initial, midyear, and final reports and program assessment about achievement of objectives, outcomes of the teaching project,
and interaction with faculty partner and student associate. This includes a focus course mini-portfolio and student learning as a result of participation in a community.