California State University has set up faculty learning communities to help their faculty implement universal design principles in their classes, labs, and lectures. The learning communities at Sonoma State University are organized by Ensuring Access Through Collaboration and Technology (EnAct), a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
The learning communities consist of five to seven faculty members who meet in cross-disciplinary teams once a month. Each member takes a turn presenting information about the instructional strategies they use in their classes. Using a guided discussion format, the team members discuss ways to incorporate universal design principles into their classes.
The goals of these sessions include
- developing a heightened awareness of faculty teaching practices,
- collaborating on course planning and development,
- creating a spirit of inquiry, and
- helping faculty understand the context of and prior beliefs about their teaching.
Operationally, the faculty learning community sessions are structured to accommodate time for the following activities
- one faculty member presents an area of their teaching that they want to improve,
- other faculty members ask both clarifying and thought provoking questions, as well as provide feedback on the issue to the presenting faculty, and
- team members reflect on what they have discussed.
The EnAct website contains comprehensive resources to guide faculty through the learning community model, as well as links to other institutions of higher education that have adopted similar communities of practice.
The learning communities at California Sate University are a promising practice because they provide support and modeling for the incorporation of universal design in the classroom.
For more information on universal design, explore The Center for Universal Design in Education.