University of South Florida

Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning (CITL)


Connections and Collaborations: CITL Faculty Learning Communities Provide Opportunities for Pedagogical Exploration

By Sara Friedman

There are a lot of demands on the average USF faculty member’s time. With research, service commitments, and of course, teaching, how do you carve out any space to investigate new practices or dive deeper into a topic that interests you? When it comes to focus areas related to pedagogy, the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) offers a program that seeks to give instructors that space: Faculty Learning Communities. 
A Faculty Learning Community (FLC) is a group of engaged faculty who work together in a year-long program geared toward integrating new approaches to learning or exploring an issue related to teaching and learning. This type of community is unique within the university context, in that it provides a dedicated place for study and application, across disciplines and away from other obligations. Each community consists of 6-12 faculty, GTAs, and/or staff with the goal of the program to support a network of faculty focused on innovation and change in pedagogy across USF. To help realize the potential of these ideas, communities are given a budget to be used for things such as purchasing materials, funding travel, and paying for speakers. 
CITL’s FLC program is currently supporting its third cohort of communities, with work and projects set to wrap up this summer. Beginning in the 2021-22 academic year, a total of 22 communities have been facilitated, with members coming from all three USF campuses and a variety of different disciplines. These communities have each used this opportunity to explore a specific topic, work on developing or acquiring a new skillset, or even to embark on a journey to create new knowledge through research.  
The outcomes and insights gained from many faculty learning communities have been shared out to wider audiences through other mediums, as well. These include conference presentations (such as “Critical (&Creative) Thinking” led by Dr. Morgan Gresham and Dr. Alaina Tackitt, presented at the AAC&U Gen Ed Conference in February 2022), open educational resources (like the website published by the “Developing Open-Access Media to Support Florida Interdisciplinary Climate Justice Education” FLC led by Dr. Alexandra Panos), posters presented at the CITL Celebration of Teaching, Canvas course shell resources to be shared among a department (“Professionalization in the English Major,” led by Dr. Cynthia Patterson), and an upcoming faculty writing retreat (“Writing Pedagogy in Praxis,” led by three-time FLC facilitator Dr. Heather O’Leary). 

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One such example of an FLC that has resulted in published research is that of the 2021-22 community “Language Teachers for Technology Literacy and Innovation,” led by Dr. Matt Kessler. Dr. Kessler and members of the group investigated various technologies for second language acquisition and hosted guest speakers in publicly accessible virtual meetings and interactive sessions. As a result of this work, Dr. Kessler published an empirical study in the journal E-Learning and Digital Media titled “Do we know our language learners? Investigating students’ and teachers’ technology ownership, access, literacy, and interest in online education.” The full article can be viewed at this link
And, sometimes, the process of conducting the community itself is the outcome, as was the case with “Taking the Stress Out of Teaching Classes with International Students,” led by Dr. Meghan Bratkovich and Dr. Jane Harvey. Drs. Bratkovich and Harvey presented findings from the experience of facilitating their FLC at several international conferences in spring 2024, including the TESOL conference held in Tampa (see photo). 

Four USF faculty and staff at the TESOL Conference in 2024.

The possibilities an FLC offers for collaboration, creation, and sharing of knowledge are endless. Is there an idea that you’ve been hoping to take a closer look at? CITL is now accepting proposals for the next cohort of FLCs through Friday, May 3rd, 2024! 
To learn more about previous FLCs and discover how you can propose your own community, visit CITL’s website: 

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CITL News covers upcoming faculty development events, latest trends in teaching and learning, and innovative approaches USF faculty use to engage their students.