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Faculty Development in the First-Year Learning Community

We have found that our First-Year Learning Community has become a laboratory in which faculty members collaborate to identify learning problems and experiment with solutions. Milton Cox has written about and researched the benefits of Faculty Learning Communities. We have designed our First-Year Learning Community to serve the dual purpose of being both a learning community for developmental students and a faculty learning community. Faculty members receive one course reassigned time per year and are required to meet with their clusters weekly. They also engage in faculty development activities for several days during the summer. It is an opportunity to join with colleagues in holding a microscope to the teaching/learning process. It is also an opportunity to enjoy the collaboration and support of peers in a teaching environment with daunting challenges.

Working in clusters of three: one faculty who teaches a developmental course, one faculty who teaches an academic credit-bearing course, and one counselor, we have identified meaningful modes of integration, designed environments to promote student engagement and a sense of student ownership, and found ways of contextualizing difficult areas of conceptual understanding. We have also used the community to help students create a stronger bond with fellow students, faculty, and with the institution itself. This intense faculty development effort has resulted in increased student performance on the ACT tests in reading, writing, and mathematics and better passing grades in six out of eight courses as compared to college-wide statistics.

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