Getting Started with Faculty Learning Communities

Your institution may have department meetings and may even have communities of practice, but does it have faculty learning communities (FLCs)? An effective FLC can positively impact its members’ engagement in and involvement with both their discipline and their institution.

In Creating Faculty Learning Communities: 16 Recommendations, Milton D. Cox, PhD, founder and director emeritus of the Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment at Miami University, shares his experience in developing FLCs and his recommendations for doing so at other colleges and universities.

According to one definition, an FLC is “a specifically structured community of practice that includes the key goals of building community, engaging in scholarly teaching, and the development of scholarship of teaching and learning” (Cox and Richlin). To develop a community that encourages both scholarship and collegiality, Cox has developed 16 suggestions that he shares in his seminar. Some key categories include:

  • Composition of the FLC: Cox recommends an FLC be kept to a workable size, optimally between eight and 10 members. These members should include faculty, professionals, and administrators, and they may include affiliate partners such as mentors, student associates, and consultants. This small group will be able to work together effectively, and it will benefit from being multidisciplinary. One way to control the composition of the group is to make membership available only to volunteers who complete an application and gain department chair sign-off.
  • Timing and Composition of Meetings: Cox suggests a regular meeting schedule of once every three weeks throughout the academic year, which requires members to make a commitment and keeps topics fresh in members’ minds. He also suggests including social moments, community building, and food at the meeting, to differentiate an FLC from other committees and task forces.
  • Meeting Organization and Norms: The facilitator of the FLC should be a member who “models desired behavior and initially determines goals,” Cox says, but ultimately members should determine objectives, meeting topics, and budgets. Meetings should encourage discussion and work that will ultimately lead to outcomes that can be presented to the wider campus and lead to rewards and recognition within the FLC and beyond.