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Innovations in Conversations About Teaching

Beyond the Workshop

Edited By Maria B. Hopkins and Rachel Bailey Jones

Centers for teaching and learning all face the same dilemma: In a context where faculty are not required to partake in our services, how do we provide transformative learning experiences to which faculty willingly give their limited time? The answer, Maria B. Hopkins and Rachel Bailey Jones propose, is to move away from a workshop model of faculty development and toward a model that supports the kinds of connections among faculty that lead to self-sustaining growth and development. This edited book provides a breadth of innovative alternatives to fixed-schedule faculty development workshops that faculty are rarely attending due to the increasing complexity of their professional lives. The audience for this book is higher education administrators, faculty, and staff responsible for faculty development related to teaching and learning. Each chapter provides a detailed description of a faculty development initiative in practice that provide opportunities for creativity, adaptability, and collaboration among faculty. Public, private, and community colleges, small and large, research-focused and teaching-focused institutions are represented. The editors have taken on this project because this is the resource they wish they had when they began their work as directors of the teaching lab at their institution.

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4. Teaching Circles at RIT: Faculty-Directed Educational Development


Michael Starenko

Teaching circles comprise teachers. While that seems to be commonsensical, it belies the fact that teaching exists in a larger context, with administrators and managers and structures that impede or support teaching. When we participate in teaching circles, we must interact with our peers, free from the fear that an admission of inability may become part of summative evaluation. (Black & Cessna, 2003, n.p.)

As an educational developer in Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) in the Innovative Learning Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I felt honored by the invitation to contribute to this volume on innovative approaches to faculty development, and I paused to reflect on whether a new teaching circles program, one started in spring 2018, might be an appropriately “innovative” topic for this book. I had some doubts about its aptness. First, our program had run for less than three full semesters at that time. Second and more crucially, I was unsure others would consider teaching circles to be sufficiently “innovative” (new, original, creative, etc.), since teaching circles are at least twenty-five years old and resemble much older kinds of discussion and learning groups, like reading circles and book clubs (Fitzpatrick, 2019).

With additional research into the literature, combined with feedback from more than half of the RIT participants in teaching circles, my doubts faded. Teaching circles, in the words of TLS’s mission statement, “foster reflective practices about teaching and learning and establish and strengthen relationships with colleagues...

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