Learning Community, PLN

Building Communities of Practice in Higher Ed

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Milton Cox from Miami University, met with a group of students, staff and faculty to share ideas on how to build effective communities of practice at UNT known as Collaborative Learning Communities (CLC).  In his lecture and our discussion, Dr. Cox shared suggestions on how to “mind the gap(s)” in higher education and consider the broken spaces between our current disciplines, departments and silos on campus.  The process of connecting to establish a community of practice (in his example, faculty learning communities) it is to connect faculty and their institutions to think beyond their department, discipline and separate goals for the campus.
Image c/o Dr. Milton Cox
It is all to common to see department loyalty being rewarded and interdisciplinary activity questioned in higher education. There are also disconnects between student development and academic affairs priorities. For higher education to move forward it will be critical for faculty and staff to engage students in new ways of learning and scholarly activity. Although many students want to see the sage on the stage, to just consume information, it will be increasingly critical for our learning institutions to encourage inquiry-based learning and promote self-regulated scholarship.
One way to close the education gap and challenges in higher education, is to consider forming communities of practice (CoP) that work together. There are a number of students, staff and faculty need to collaborate to discuss civic engagement, learning communities, and pedagogical shifts to our higher education curriculum. Dr. Cox introduced the concept of Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), which tend to be more structured than the organic CoP, and they are voluntary, structured, and at least a yearlong commitment from the members. Here are some other suggested practices for setting up FLCs:
  • size: 8-12 faculty, professionals, Administrators, TAs, students
  • voluntary membership by application
  • Affiliate patterns: consultants, mentors, student associates
  • multidisciplinary and from different departments
  • encourage participant curiosity
  • allow for richness of innovations
  • permitted relief from dysfunctional units
As we connected and discussed ideas around our own Collaborative Learning Communities (CLCs), we found sharing ideas could help work towards resolving institutional challenges and support the strategic goals for our campus. As our CLCs gather and collaborate, I am looking forward to connecting, brainstorming, and creating initiatives that will enhance what we do on campus.
Along with this idea for collaborative learning communities, Sue Beckingham, Jeff Jackson, Eric Stoller and I hope to discuss this topic as a #sxswEDU panel in 2013 => Communities of Practice in Higher Education as we hope to answer the following questions:
  1. How can communities of practice and learning networks play a critical role in meeting the challenges of higher education across the globe?
  2. As professional and personal learning networks (PLNs) develop, how can these informal entities support and contribute to the future of higher education?
  3. What are some actionable items and issues that higher education communities of practice can take on both at the local and global level?
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References:

Cox, M. & Richlin, L.  (2004). New Directions for Teaching and Learning:  Building Faculty Learning Communities.  Vol. 97.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wenger, E. (2002) Communities of practice. Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Volume 1.5, Article 5. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam. 
G*STEP, Professional Development

G*STEP: Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Program

 

 

As part of the “Professional Development” section for my portfolio requirements (in lieu of comprehensive exams, I will defend a professional portfolio in order to become a Ph.D. Candidate before the semester over – I will blog about this in the near future), I am completing a variety of professional workshops, pre-conferences, colloquiums, and training events in my field to enhance my doctoral course work. I was just accepted to the Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Program (G*STEP) program, with approximately 85 other University of North Texas graduate students, who will complete the G*STEP certificate over the next 12 months.

 

 

 

 

 

As indicated by the image, the goal of the G*STEP program is to initiate mentoring, encourage personal growth, and support effective teaching and learning practices for graduate students. This non-credit certificate program was developed by the Toulouse Graduate School, the Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign (CLEAR),the Provost’s office, Undergraduate Studies, UNT Libraries, and the UNT Program of Higher Education to promote effective teaching in higher education at UNT.

 

UNT would like to reach their FOUR BOLD GOALS for teaching effectiveness, which can be grouped into these three key factors:

 

1. Providing organized and clear instruction that contributes to understanding and promotes learning

2. Creating a learning environment that is inclusive, respectful and engaging

 

3. Guiding and encouraging self-directed learning resulting in a wider understanding and contribution to the learning process.

 

Although I already have teaching experience, in both the K-12 and higher education classroom, I thought the G*STEP program would improve my instructional craft, enhance my pedagogical methods, and connect me to other graduate students in various disciplines – to learn about their teaching practices, challenges and resources. The only cost to the program is purchasing Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers and committing my time/effort to the program for the duration of the twelve months.  As I plug through the online modules (8 total) and face-to-face meetings (6 total), I will be sure to share my contributions, reflections and progress here.

 

 

 

#AcWri, #phdchat

Reasons to #AcWri and Writing Considerations

For tonight’s class (yay for Fridays!) I will be sharing the basic concepts from Rocco and Hatcher’s (2011) publication – The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publication – as I outline chapter 1. This book was part of my #summerreading list. I picked it up to read advance for ATTD 6480: Research Methods class, and consider how to hone my own writing and publishing practice.

Much of this book offers basic ideas and structure for suggested scholarly writing practices. Stay tuned, as I am sure that I will share a few other nuggets of #AcWri tips from time to
time.

Here are some basic writing tips from Chapter 1:

  • Make projects from opportunities
  • Meet deadlines – yours and others
  • Keep your commitments
  • Organize & prioritize your projects => To Do lists & Tracking of Your Work
  • Write down ideas – ALWAYS
  • Outline your writing projects in progress
  • Take notes when you read/research
  • Identify at least ONE journal to submit to
  • Review journal articles where you want to submit
  • Learn the style & preferred manuscript structure
  • Rejection = helpful review comments & suggestions

 

Reference:

Rocco, T.S. & Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Wiley/Jossey-Bass.