Matthew West

Creating institution-level change in instructional practices through faculty communities of practice

G. L. Herman, I. B. Mena, M. West, J. Mestre, and J. H. Tomkin

in Proceedings of the 122nd American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition (ASEE 2015), 26.419.1-26.419.13, 2015.

The College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign received NSF funding to transform the teaching culture in gateway STEM courses through the creation of faculty communities of practice (CoPs). The STEM departments have historically had "lone ranger" teaching cultures in which faculty possess sole jurisdiction over their teaching practices and heroes are called upon to create better instructional environments. In contrast, these same departments have deeply collaborative research cultures that spark innovation and sustained excellence. This effort has been organized around a simple message of "teach like we do research." At the core of the effort, we challenged faculty to pursue excellence through collaborative joint ownership of their courses. Thus course-focused CoPs were formed and tasked with the ongoing task of integrating research-based instructional strategies (RBIS) into their courses. Concurrently, the leadership team fostered a cross-college CoP (i.e., a team of teams) by attending each course-focused CoP weekly meeting and cross-pollinating fruitful efforts. These observations also provided rich opportunities for understanding how the CoPs formed and functioned, allowing the leadership team to characterize the habits and behaviors of effective and ineffective CoPs. Within these research-inspired collaborative communities, course-focused CoPs were encouraged to learn from the literature and collect data to evaluate their efforts as they would in research. Accordingly, the leadership team provided just-in-time training as gaps in each CoP’s knowledge were identified. Through these iterative implement-evaluate development cycles, it is expected that faculty will emergently adopt RBIS that meet their course design goals and objectives such as increased student learning, motivation, and retention. The purpose of this paper is to (1) describe our initial experiences with creating the CoPs and with attempting to change the teaching culture to be one of collaborative joint ownership within CoPs, (2) describe the groups of instructors who are successfully forming CoPs and discuss the characteristics of effective and ineffective CoPs, based on observation data, and (3) describe the different RBIS that have been implemented, and the fidelity and success of implementationthus far, based on informational surveys completed by the CoP observation teams.

DOI: 10.18260/p.23758

Full text: HeMeWeMeTo2015.pdf