Center for Teaching and Learning

FAQs and background: Learning Communities

CTL piloted Learning Communities in the fall of 2011. Learning Communities bring together educators from different disciplines to discuss, reflect, and collaborate on a teaching and learning topic of mutual interest.  Together participants pursue shared instructional objectives, model peer learning practices, and promote lifelong learning in an atmosphere of mutual support and discovery.

Who participates?
Learning Communities are open to currently active tenure-track and research faculty, lecturers, adjunct faculty, post-docs, graduate students, and staff educators amongst the three UW campuses.  Certain Learning Communities may be cohort-based and if that is the case, will be indicated at the time of marketing.

How big are the groups?
An average of 6-12 people.  If a Learning Community lacks the number of desired participants, it will be canceled but not before the facilitator and participants are contacted.  Special cases may be made to continue an LC if all parties commit to the number of meetings involved.

How often do groups meet?
Groups typically meet weekly or every other week for one quarter.  The average number of meetings is five.

What are the goals of a Learning Community?

  • To support you and your work as teaching scholars and staff educators
  • To share resources and expertise
  • To encourage evidence-based decisions about teaching
  • To sustain and strengthen the UW teaching community

What are the roles and expectations of participants?
Participants attend the sessions, assist in developing agendas and group goals, and contribute to session discussions and activities. After the Learning Communities conclude, we encourage each group to submit a brief summary of group goals, discussion topics, outcomes, and next steps to be shared on the CTL website. We also hope that participants will share what you have learned in other venues, so that colleagues can learn from your expertise and experience. Sharing out could mean serving as a facilitator for a future Learning Community, teaching a workshop, contributing a blog entry or teaching strategy to the CTL web site, presenting a poster, publishing in a journal or newsletter, or leading a discussion among colleagues.

What is CTL’s role in a learning community?
We help form the Learning Communities and provide space in which to meet. We recruit facilitators, and provide resources as needed. First time facilitators meet with the program manager and a CTL consultant to discuss expectations, best practices, and ideas.  The facilitator is responsible for organizing and facilitating group activities and conversation.  Leading an LC is a wonderful professional development opportunity and we want to ensure that the facilitator(s) and participants got the most out of this experience.  After the conclusion of the Learning Community, CTL follows up with participants periodically to discover how their new knowledge, as a result of participating in the Learning Community, has impacted or transformed their teaching as well as their students’ learning.

What topics are covered?
Previous Learning Communities have investigated a variety of pertinent teaching and learning topics including: Teaching Large Classes, “Flipping” the Classroom, Exploring Service Learning, Canvas Course Management, Leading Dynamic Discussions, Social Media for Learning, Supporting English Language Learners in the Classroom, Fostering Future Faculty, and more.