Mellon Communities of Practice
The CTL fosters and supports many types of participant-driven and faculty-led or co-led communities of practice (CoP) among instructors. Communities of practice involve groups of practitioners that come together regularly to focus on an area of shared interest and on building collegial relationships among members as they learn together over time (Wenger & Wenger-Trayner, 2015).
Faculty Learning Communities
Most frequently at Berea, instructors work together in faculty learning communities, semi-structured cross-disciplinary groups of five to ten participants and one or two facilitators who delve deeply into a teaching-related topic of shared interest over the course of a semester or academic year (Cox, 2004; Cox & Richlin, 2011). Groups meet twice monthly to discuss readings, make connections between their teaching practices and what they are learning, and sometimes to develop one or more activities or projects related to the learning community theme. Such projects may involve a revising a course (or course component), exploring a new pedagogy, building a cross-disciplinary collaboration, or even beginning of a collaborative scholarly research project. Contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Past years’ topics: service-learning; inclusive teaching practices; oral histories in teaching and learning; contemplative practices for education; general teaching development; transparent assignment design; student-faculty partnerships; and general education revision.
A modification of the “teaching square,” groups of three instructors commit to meeting periodically across one semester to visit each other’s classrooms or online courses in three rounds and to provide one another with formative feedback and encouragement. Participants engage in structured reflection on their resultant learning and share this with one another and the CTL. Contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens (email@example.com) for more information.
Mellon Career Stage Development Opportunities
The CTL offers extensive programming and support for faculty new to the College, and, since 2017, an increasing focus on programming designed for faculty at midcareer.
New Faculty Programs
New Faculty Orientation
Just prior to the launch of the academic year, full-time faculty members who are new to Berea are required to attend an intensive two-day orientation designed to help them understand and reflect upon
- who Berea students are, where they come from, and what assets they bring;
- their own identities as individuals as well as instructors, as these will interact with their students’ multiple intersecting identities;
- Berea’s Great Commitments, the eight-part mission that shapes culture, curriculum, and myriad choices for the College and the classroom;
- implicit as well as explicit cultural expectations and norms for faculty, and particularly those relevant for new faculty;
- teaching effectively: inclusive teaching, active learning, students’ stages of development, equity-mindedness, and more;
- preparing for a strong start, with a focus on syllabus development and the first day of class.
Participants meet other relatively new faculty (hired in the previous year or so), who share their own impressions of Berea’s student and faculty cultures together with advice about how to succeed in year one. Members of the Academic Affairs Office join the group to extend a welcome. Finally, a panel of senior faculty members field newcomers’ questions and offer advice, welcome, and encouragement.
New Faculty Seminar
Faculty new to Berea may choose to commit to a year-long learning community, the New Faculty Seminar. Participants meet bi-monthly with the CTL Director to explore pedagogies that foster student learning, engagement, and inclusion and help support new faculty members’ own success (and, by extension, that of their students), whether they are employed for a single term or on the tenure track. Through the seminar, each annual cohort builds deep bonds of community and provide mutual support through a shared period of significant transition. New faculty are introduced to recent work in the scholarship of teaching and learning and are also encouraged to participate and contribute to that scholarship, if they so choose.
The New Faculty Seminar serves as a deeper introduction to the College than the Orientation, as well as a chance to explore effective teaching practices with a supportive cohort and an experienced faculty facilitator. The year-long seminar meets twice a month for 90 minutes during fall and spring semesters. While each cohort defines its own needs and areas of interest for common exploration, groups frequently choose from among the following as areas of focus:
- informal collaborative exploration and trouble-shooting of common challenges faced by newcomers;
- discussion of shared readings about teaching for learning, such as Ambrose, et al. (2010), How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching;
- engagement with senior faculty colleagues or visits from staff colleagues to learn more about Berea’s context and effective teaching and professional growth;
- reciprocal peer classroom visits;
- laying the groundwork for a successful tenure bid.
Participants each receive a $100.00 book allowance to purchase pedagogy books for their personal libraries at the end of the year.
Midcareer Faculty Development
Midcareer is a crucial moment for faculty members who often need to reorient, refresh, and recommit when, after an extended period of teaching, scholarship/creative work, and service, they are ready for a new challenge, and as they may experience some level of malaise, a lack of direction, or even a sense of feeling things have grown “stale” (Baldwin, DeZure, Shaw, & Moretto, 2008). Since 2017, the CTL has engaged a Mellon Faculty Fellow for Midcareer Faculty Development, who, together with the director, has brought midcareer instructors together to build collegial community and to explore developmentally relevant needs.
Past topics: charting your next career phase; planning your sabbatical.
Requests for future topics and opportunities: leadership development (for department chairs; for women, etc.); career-phase specific cohort or learning community groups; writing retreats and scholarly collaborations; diversity/inclusion development.
Mellon Workshops and Institutes
While traditionally May and summer have provided time and space for faculty to engage in extended development opportunities such as multi-day workshops and institutes, the shift to online instruction necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has led in the 2020-2021 to the development of a series of just-in-time workshops to meet emerging needs during the academic year. If you have an idea or a request for such a workshop (or resources), contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Annual May workshops: Critical Pedagogies, Transparent Assignment Design, and the Writing Institute
Course (Re)Design for Online Teaching and Learning (April – June 2020 and resource course)
Ongoing workshops 2020-2021: Teaching Online for Student Learning and Engagement
Critical Pedagogy Workshops
Each May, the CTL hosts a three-day Mellon-funded workshop focused on critical pedagogy and developed and delivered by local Berea faculty and staff members. In past years, faculty colleagues have presented on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (2018) and Critical Race Theory and Education (2019).
Transparent Assignment Design Workshop
Each May, members from the year’s faculty learning community on Transparent Assignment Design, together with the Mellon Transparency Fellows, hold a 2-hour workshop for colleagues on transparent assignment design. Participants workshop current assignments to learn about recommendations for making them more effective for students.
Teaching Writing Institute
Each May, the CTL sponsors a Mellon-funded institute on teaching writing. The Writing Institute seeks to transform all participants’ thinking, approach to, and practice of teaching college writing. During the intensive two-week experience, faculty participate themselves in daily experiential, writing-based teaching and learning, as they learn about how to teach writing. Each participant emerges with a redesigned syllabus and course assignments that aims to produce better student writing and to foster students’ self-efficacy as writers. During the week of the institute, participants create 1) new assignment sequences for their target course, including a revised major paper assignment (as appropriate); 2) new daily lesson plans; 3) new approaches to student workshops, writing conferences, and assessment; and 4) integrated course plans, resulting in a draft course syllabus. The institute is co-led by an experienced English faculty member and a co-facilitator from the faculty.
Course (Re)Design for Online Teaching and Learning (April-June 2020)
Many years, the summer includes a targeted course (re)design institute. During summer 2020 (April – June), the CTL launched a series of month-long Moodle courses for instructors to learn to teach effectively online, a need emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and a shift to distance instruction. Access to a dynamic copy of the course with additional resources and links is available for any Berea instructor upon request (contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, email@example.com)
Teaching Online for Student Learning and Engagement
Through the 2020-2021 academic year, workshops (and accompanying resources) will be available on an as-needed basis to address emerging faculty needs for online teaching development (contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mellon Student-Faculty Partnerships Program
Student-Faculty Partnerships bring together pairs of students and faculty in a structured program that fosters relationship and encourages dialogue about faculty members’ teaching goals or questions and students’ expertise as learners in classrooms. Students take a .25 credit course to prepare for the experience and meet one hour weekly with their faculty partners; faculty participants meet monthly with other faculty in the program.
The Mellon-funded and donor-supported Student-Faculty Partnerships Program works to establish conditions that allow students to become bona fide partners in the teaching equation through a variety of means, including as classroom observers and conversation partners with individual cooperating faculty members. Students and instructors participate in order to deepen dialogue around diverse experiences of the classroom, to strengthen students’ sense of agency and responsibility for learning, and to foster better learning, a stronger sense of belonging, and greater equity (Cook-Sather, Bovill, & Felten 2014; the SaLT Program at Bryn Mawr).
To participate, students must apply and provide recommendations from faculty members and others students. Crucial to success are students’ interest in and commitment to the working within the foundational values of the program—respect, reciprocity, and responsibility—and a desire to grow and explore building a nontraditional relationship and dialogue with a faculty partner about teaching and learning.
Students participate in a .25-credit course (the equivalent to a 1-credit course at other institutions); and student partners observe one hour of their faculty partner’s target class each week, assembling and writing up observations, then meeting to discuss these with their faculty partners.
Faculty Expression of Interest
To participate, contact Lauren Hall (email@example.com) or Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens (firstname.lastname@example.org) to express interest in the program.
Faculty members engage in a one-hour weekly meeting with their student partners to consider goals for their courses in light of their student partners’ observations, listen to and discuss students’ insights, questions, and recommendations and plan upcoming classes in dialogue with the student partner. Faculty participants meet monthly in a community of practice with one another and with the program facilitators to discuss their experiences in the program.
Mellon Transparent Assignment Design Project
The Mellon grant initiative on transparent assignment design encourages faculty members to take small but powerful steps toward making their teaching more “transparent” to render the hidden curriculum visible and explicit for all students. This approach has been shown to especially help historically underserved students to experiences stronger feeling of belonging and self-efficacy (Winkelmes 2013; 2016). The project offers a number of entry points: annual short workshops, semester-long learning communities, and more in-depth research and leadership for two fellows.
Professional Writing Retreats are designed to help faculty and staff meet their professional writing goals (typically related to tenure/promotion, dissertation/project completion, or publication) in a supportive environment. Held in a comfortable off-campus venue without internet access, writing retreats allow participants to devote time, energy, and space to writing without distractions. Participants set goals for the day together and reflect on their progress at the end of the session, and lunches and transportation to and from the retreat site are provided.
The presence of a group of fellow writers has been noted as a positive aspect of previous retreats; the nearness of colleagues working on similar kinds of projects often helps hold participants accountable to their written goals. Typically, applications are accepted for two retreats each fall; one open to all on-campus faculty and staff, and one for women-identified faculty/staff specifically in response to well-documented gender publication gaps in higher education.
Faculty Development through the CTL supports instructors—generally in community with one another—as they work to become ever more informed, creative, critical, and equity-minded teachers and professionals.