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ACES Faculty Learning Circle

Current models of faculty development for Universal Instructional Design (UID) often rely on a single point of contact training to influence instructional practice. Understanding that comprehensive course reform requires a more comprehensive set of supports, the ACES project created a core faculty partnership team that functioned as a Faculty Learning Circle (FLC) to inform, support and ultimately guide the infusion of universal instructional design strategies into community college classes.

The FLC was designed to meet monthly as an interdisciplinary team to modify curriculum and teaching practice, and classroom experiences through the newfound understanding of transition needs and UID that faculty acquired after participating in the “Ease the Transition” and “UID” summer seminars. Faculty engaged in discussion and professional development activities, collaboratively as well as independently, to support the infusion of the curricular/instructional changes, including modification of course materials, implementation of changed instructional practice, and assessment activities. The Faculty Leadership Team met in advance of each meeting to develop the agenda that would guide the monthly discussion. Agenda topics focused on more in-depth discussions of each UID principle and its application in each participant’s course. Frequently, the FLC discussion topics were posted in advance to the BlackBoard “course” developed for the team so that faculty could post comments on the discussion board and prepare for each month’s discussion. FLC discussions were led by the Faculty leaders and varied between large group discussions and small group breakout sessions. Additional small working groups elected to meet between scheduled FLC meetings to work on materials and course changes in a hands-on collaborative manner.

Data compiled at the end of the Fall 2009 semester indicated that 100% of faculty felt that participating in the FLC was a valuable experience and all reported that participation has added to their knowledge about the needs of students with disabilities and to their knowledge of UID. Assessment results indicate that faculty increased their knowledge regarding disabilities and UID and that their perceptions of the efficacy of their teaching improved based upon grant participation and knowledge of transition issues of students with disabilities. The collaboration across disciplines and with Disability Services staff fostered through the use of the faculty learning circle was a significant strength and asset in this project, and represents a model that is being moved forward at NCC as a faculty development tool.

Faculty Learning Circle (FLC) Discussion Topics

FLC Topics throughout Design Phase

P1: Create a welcoming classroom

  • What do you do at the start of a semester to create a welcoming environment? How might you help to facilitate an effective transition for students and foster self advocacy related to learning styles (all students) and accommodations (students with disabilities)?

P2: Determine the essential components of the course

P3: Communicate clear expectations

  • A syllabus developed using the principles of Universal Instructional Design can incorporate several UID principles including creating a welcoming environment, conveying essential components of the course and communicating clear expectation to students. As you think about your syllabus, what components of your syllabus already incorporate these principles? What components might you want to rethink to make the document more universally designed? What is the right balance between too much and not enough information?
  • What is the ideal time and method to present your syllabus? How can you enhance understanding of the syllabus?

P4: Provide constructive feedback

  • The principle of providing constructive feedback suggests that feedback should be specific, relevant, timely, frequent and accurate while offering a mix of positive and corrective suggestions. How do you determine what constructive feedback is? What are the challenges to providing constructive helpful feedback; how can rubrics support class expectations and feedback?

P5: Explore the use of natural supports for learning, including technology, to enhance opportunities for all learners

  • In order to create accessibility to content for a diverse group of learners, faculty must consider the specific materials and the format of those materials. As you think about your course materials, are your required textbooks accessible to all? If so, how are students informed of accessibility options?
  • In what ways might you use technology to enhance student understanding of course criteria, rubrics, etc.?
  • How might you encourage students to use technology, such as screen reader software, to facilitate student access to course documents and other readings?
  • What materials might you want to refine, revise, remove or redesign to incorporate greater use of UID principles?

P6: Design teaching methods that consider diverse learning styles, abilities, ways of knowing and previous experience and background knowledge

  • Faculty can support student learning in a variety of ways. Methods of instruction such as lecture and discussion groups can be combined to enhance student engagement. Providing multiple means of access to class lectures through posted notes, podcasted lectures, and multimedia presentations also enhance student learning opportunities. What methods of instruction would you like to examine to support student learning in a UID model? Is there a problem area you would like to brainstorm about to discover additional ideas for instruction?
  • Faculty can design teaching methods that consider aspects of student learning. Discuss methods to identify and use students’ prior experiences, knowledge and learning styles to develop teaching strategies to enhance learning?

P7: Create multiple ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge

  • Many faculty members use exams as one method to assess student learning. As you think about “providing multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge”, how might you re-conceptualize the assessments you use in your course? You can consider analyzing each individual exam or analyzing the collection of assessments you use throughout your course.

P8: Promote interaction among and between faculty and staff

  • Promoting interaction between faculty and student and between students themselves can be a key to student retention. As you promote this interaction, what are the course challenges you face as you facilitate interaction that is both constructive and supportive? How can you use “teachable moments” to facilitate interaction and instruction?

FLC Topics throughout Implementation Phase

Faculty Self Reflection was utilized frequently through the implementation phase of the grant. Faculty reflected on the following types of questions or participated in the following activities.

  • Of the strategies that you have implemented, what are you most excited about?
  • Is there something that is not working as you thought it would? This can be positive or negative.
  • How do you feel about the strategies you have used thus far? What strategies would you consider for future implementation?
  • How might you revise a strategy for the next round of implementation? Consider the following for self-reflection. What are you using that is the same? What have you changed and why? Are there strategies that you find can be successfully generalized across courses?
  • Some faculty are interested in getting feedback from students regarding their UID strategies. How and when might you get student feedback on your specific strategies? What is the best approach to this so that student can effectively reflect/remember what occurred in class? What methodology would you like to use?
  • Small group “sharing” of artifacts, activities and implementation success strategies on the following principles

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