Faculty/Staff Learning Communities
The Office of the Provost at Butler University sponsors Faculty/Staff Learning Communities (FSLCs) that bring together small groups of faculty and academic staff from a variety of disciplines and units to regularly engage in dynamic discussion, reflection, and collaboration on a professional development topic of shared interest.
The goals of FSLCs are to build and strengthen the Butler academic community and its commitment to community engagement, to share resources and expertise, to encourage evidence-based decisions about our work, and to support Butler’s faculty and academic staff in their pursuit of lifelong learning and multidisciplinary collaboration.
Each FSLC will consist of up to (approximately) 15 voluntary participants who represent at least three major areas within the academic division (i.e., colleges, libraries, academic affairs units), represent both faculty and academic staff, and represent multiple career stages (i.e., a mix of junior and more experienced members of the Butler community). Participants are expected to attend the meetings of the FSLC, to assist the facilitator in developing agendas and group goals, and to contribute meaningfully to session discussions and activities. Participants will also contribute to the “final project,” which will be assembled by the facilitator.
FSLC facilitators will be expected to schedule meetings, reserve meeting space, select readings, assignments, and topics, and organize and steer group activities and conversations. Facilitators will also coordinate and assemble the FSLC “final project.” Each FSLC can decide what their final deliverable will be. Some examples of typical ways to present to campus or to the community include:
- Deliver a Brown Bag or Food for Thought session on what your FSLC learned
- Submit a report to the Core Curriculum Committee
- Present lessons learned from your FSLC at a professional conference
- Act as a mentor to other FSLC participants and facilitators
- Host a series of conversations on your FSLC’s topic
- Present on your FSLC at the Celebration of Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL)
- Submit a manuscript for publication in an applicable journal (e.g., Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) or a proposal for presentation at a relevant conference (e.g., the Lilly Conferences on College and University Teaching and Learning)
The FSLC facilitators have three main responsibilities:
- Champion—By keeping members’ focus on the big picture while motivating participants to take the risk to change in their individual areas, the champion serves as a catalyst for academic change.
- Coordinate—Initial tasks of a coordinator would be to identify the key components of the FSLC in consultation with the Program Directors and build a framework for the year around those components and the FSLC objectives.
- Energize—By thoughtfully observing and providing feedback on both the focus and the harmony of the group, the energizer makes any necessary interventions to bring the group back to the overarching goals of the FSLC program: to enhance student learning and to build community and foster relationships across disciplines (Petrone & Ortquist-Ahrens, 65-66).
Facilitator training will be provided prior to the start of the FSLCs.
Members of each FSLC are expected to meet approximately once every three weeks for 1–2 hours, for a total of approximately 6 meetings throughout the academic year. Facilitators will be responsible for coordinating participants’ schedules and arranging meeting times and places.
At the conclusion of the academic year, FSLCs will be expected to submit a brief summary of the topics that the group discussed, the group’s goals, the outcomes of those goals, and any next steps that the group plans to take. They will also plan to communicate what they learned and/or to present any products they generated at a year-end activity near the end of the spring 2019 semester.
Each FSLC will have $500 to spend on books and materials, refreshments, and travel (if appropriate). Funds may be used for other purposes with the approval of the Provost and expenses over $500 should be explicitly justified. Additionally, a stipend of $750 will be available for facilitators as a sign of appreciation for the extra effort involved in leading an FSLC.
FSLC Themes for 2019–20:
Using the Campus Farm to Inspire Engaged Learning
This FSLC will serve as a space for faculty and staff to explore how the campus farm can be used as a curricular and cocurricular resource. Building off a project funded by the National Science Foundation where four faculty created 4–6 week experiential learning modules in their courses that were situated on the campus farm, this FSLC will bring together more experienced faculty, new faculty and staff, and staff from the campus farm and Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability to learn about social, ecological, and economic perspectives of food production and consumption and how to use those concepts as a framework for teaching course content within a wide range of disciplines and educational settings. Participants may also gain knowledge of and access to other urban farms and food organizations in Indianapolis, strengthening community engagement.
Establishing Mentorship of New Faculty Members as Part of Campus Culture
This FSLC builds off 2018–19's "Fostering Community through Mentorship" FSLC, which had goals to research and investigate the best way to implement and maintain a new faculty and staff mentorship program designed to connect faculty and staff members new to Butler with second and third year faculty members before they arrive on campus. The goal of this FSLC is to have faculty and staff new to Butler establish a personal relationship with another faculty member immediately upon their arrival who can serve as a valuable resource for their professional career.
Enhancing Student Engagement through Critical Thinking
In this FSLC, participants will consider what strategies deeply anchor students within our classrooms, how we as faculty and staff can go about promoting students' excitement about and commitment to learning, and what sort of educational experience we might be able to provide through explicit emphasis on critical thinking that would support Butler's recruitment and retention efforts. The goal of this FSLC is for faculty and staff to gain a better understanding of which pedagogical methods promote critical thinking; why critical thinking is important to student engagement; why engagement is important to recruitment and retention; and how critical thinking skills intersect with both the goals of a liberal arts education and the demands of twenty-first century professions.
Readings and discussions associated with the theme of academic freedom will look at it from a contemporary standpoint where participants discuss what it means to truly practice the principles of academic freedom in a manner that is inclusive and based on a level of intellectual engagement that furthers higher learning. The goal of this FSLC is to create a space for academic faculty and staff participants to speak freely and learn from one another and to consider a principle that is central to enhancing and/or transforming Butler in new and thoughtful ways.
Increasing Collaboration, Creativity, and Innovative Learning with Open Textbooks
Building and strengthening the Butler academic community is in mind with this FSLC as it aims to support student success and retention by fostering the use and investigation of Open textbooks at Butler. Open textbooks can help alleviate the burden of textbook costs for students and provide faculty with content that can be customized for their course. This FSLC will allow for sharing of resources and expertise on Open textbooks, the impact they have on students success, how they help decrease textbook costs, and how they help to retain academic freedom. As an FSLC, research on Open textbooks and other affordable learning materials will be encouraged and will aid in evidence-based decisions about using Open textbooks at Butler. Participants will have the opportunity to look at Open textbooks and explore how they might be similar or different to traditional textbooks and other education materials.
The 2020-21 FSLC participation application can be found by clicking here.
Please note that, because of the extra time commitment involved in being part of a FSLC, applicants should discuss with their supervisors how participation would affect their workload. Faculty applicants should secure department chair and -dean approval. Academic staff applicants should secure support from their immediate supervisor.
Timeline for FSLCs
February 28, 2020: Online proposal for 2020–21 FSLC topics opens.
May 8, 2020: 2019–20 FSLCs officially end
May 15, 2020: Proposals for 2020–21 FSLC topics due by 5:00 PM (please note this due date for an FSLC that begins in August 2020; we are happy to consider proposals that adhere to a different timeline if it makes sense for your proposed topic)
PENDING: The callout for 2020-21 FSLC participants timeline is currently pending, in light of current Covid-19 circumstances.
Tentative timeline for 2020-21 academic year FSLC events:
September 3, 2020: FSLC Lunch and Learn
September 11, 2020: Participant applications due by 5:00 PM
September 18, 2020: Participant applicants notified
September 3-14, 2020: Facilitator training
September 21, 2020: 2020–21 FSLCs officially begin (*please note that due to the nature of some FSLC topics, timing for certain groups may not necessarily start until later in the academic year)
March 1, 2021: Online proposal for 2021–22 FSLC topics opens
April 9, 2021: Proposals for 2021–22 FSLC topics due by 5:00 PM (please note this due date for an FSLC that begins in August 2021; we are happy to consider proposals that adhere to a different timeline if it makes sense for your proposed topic)
April 26, 2021: 2021–22 FSLC topics announced and online application opens
May 7, 2021: 2020–21 FSLCs officially end
To learn more about learning communities, please visit the following links:
- Introduction to Faculty Learning Communities by Milton Cox
- Learning Communities Journal
- Special issue: Building Faculty Learning Communities; New Directions for Teaching and Learning. Spring 2004, issue 97
- Facilitating Faculty Learning Communities: A Compact Guide to Creating Change and Inspiring Community Martha C. Petrone, Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, New Directions for Teaching & Learning, Spring 2004, issue 97.
Please address questions to the FSLC Program Co-Directors: