Faculty Learning Communities: Ten Necessary Qualities for Building Community

A faculty learning community is a faculty group engaging in activities that provide learning, development, and community. The following qualities guide the design and process of a faculty learning 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 to Enhance Teaching and Learning at Miami, participants were able to discuss ways that other participants or colleagues offend them.

  3. Respect. In order to coalesce as a learning community, members need to feel that they are valued and respected as people. It is important for the university to acknowledge their participation and financially support community projects and attendance at related conferences.

  4. Responsiveness. Members must respond respectfully to each other, and the facilitator(s) must respond quickly to their participants. The facilitation should welcome concerns and preferences, and when appropriate, share these with individuals and the community.

  5. Collaboration. The importance of collaboration in consultation and group discussion on individual members' projects and on 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 participants should be encouraged to seek out and share teaching and other real-life examples to illustrate them.

  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 faculty 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 clearer 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.