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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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5. Reflective Practice Groups: Changing the Way We Talk about Teaching


Gena Merliss and Eileen Radigan

Often when faculty meet colleagues in the hall or at the copier, we get the chance to have a brief conversation about something that happened in our classrooms. However, we are starved for in-depth, productive conversations about learning and teaching in a supportive environment. In fact, Shulman (1993) laments that the higher education culture of “pedagogical solitude” deprives faculty from the benefits of community. There is significant research in the K-12 world suggesting that teachers who learn together over time can improve their practice and students’ learning (Bryk, 2014; Fahey & Ippolito, 2015; Leana & Pil, 2006; Pil & Leana, 2009). By making teaching practice visible and public, we can both change the way that we talk about teaching and improve teaching practice (Blythe, Allen, & Powell, 2007; Given et al., 2010; McDonald, 2013; Supovitz & Christman, 2005).

The roots of the School Reform Initiative’s (SRI) Critical Friendship model were developed in the 1990s in response to teachers’ call for time, space and structure to discuss teaching practice collaboratively, rather than continuously bringing in outside “experts” whose “one and done” presentations rarely yielded any change in practice. The founders of the model created tools, called protocols, to help educators structure conversations about teaching practice. Educators gathered in professional learning communities, originally called Critical Friends Groups, and were led by coaches to bring professional dilemmas, student work, and teaching plans to a group of colleagues for feedback and instructional development. Higher education...

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