The foundational premise of Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) and Communities of Practice (CoPs) is that learning is socially situated. Both FLCs and CoPs are convened and facilitated by faculty scholar-practitioners and contribute to teaching and learning excellence. CoPs are dedicated to developing each instructor’s knowledge around a shared domain of practice, while FLCs also facilitate the production, dissemination, and use of evidence-based practice (Cox and McDonald, 2016). 

Learn more about:  

Communities of Practice 

 Etienne Wenger suggests that CoPs contain three fundamental elements: 

  • A shared domain of knowledge that creates a common ground for work and connection.
  • A shared practice that the community of people develop together to more effectively operate in their domain.
  • A community of people who want to learn more about the domain and practice. (Wenger, 1998

Structure and Process 

  • CoPs operate according to the needs and interests of the participants. Topics for discussion, readings, and agendas are determined by participants with the help and guidance of a Center for Teaching staff facilitator. OTLT administrative staff can provide logistical and scheduling support. 
  • CoPs tend to meet about once per month to continue developing the community and participants’ individual practices. 
  • The goals, discussions, content, agendas, and outcomes develop iteratively throughout the academic year.  

Current CoPs 

Interested in joining or learning more about a specific CoP? Contact the Center for Teaching liaison for the group. 

Early Career Faculty Community of Practice. Join other early career faculty to explore evidence-based teaching practices, reflect on your own pedagogical values and practices, and create a teaching development plan alongside peer instructors across Iowa. 

The Data-Informed Teaching Community of Practice. This CoP meets to explore student data available to UI faculty with two goals: 1) identify barriers to student learning and 2) generate solutions to implement at the course or program level.

Transparent Assignment Design Community of Practice. Participants will leverage an evidence-based transparent assignment design framework, receive feedback from their peers, and refine their course assignments. The participants can also use this space to reflect on the effectiveness of the transparent assignment design framework to improve their teaching practice and students’ learning experience.

Faculty Learning Communities 

Faculty learning communities (FLCs) honor the expert learning and scholarship of faculty members, providing the space and support for focused, collaborative exchange around teaching and learning, as well as structures and pathways to promote broader institutional impact through the sharing of this generated knowledge. 

An FLC is a group of faculty members, including instructional staff, who convene to explore a specific pedagogical topic. FLCs increase collaboration across disciplines, encourage reflection across the larger curriculum, and create an awareness of the complexity of teaching and learning (Cox, 2004). The  group’s discourse, reflection, and goal setting enhance the faculty’s individual teaching and the culture around teaching at the institution or beyond (Ward & Selvester, 2012). A Center for Teaching staff member serves as a liaison providing expertise and guidance. 

With these individual- and organizational-level missions in mind, FLC members consider specific topics alongside other factors, including: 

  • Individual beliefs, practices, values, and assumptions about teaching and learning. 
  • The institutional context at the UI, such current students, strategic imperatives, and contemporary issues.
  • The external context, including policies, social and global events, and a broader narrative of higher education.

General Criteria That Define Our Faculty Learning Communities 

  • Ongoing opportunity. Members meet regularly.
  • Faculty-led group. FLCs also receive support from the Center for Teaching and other relevant UI units. 
  • Opportunity for sharing and using evidence-based strategies. Conversations are informed by members’ practice and existing evidence. Members often apply shared pedagogical strategies in their own practice. 
  • Produces an outcome. These outcomes can take many forms, depending on the goals of the group and the needs of the university. Possible outcomes include a summary paper, a website (or pages), a workshop for peers, literature reviews, conference presentations and publications, or policy recommendations for administrators. 

Structure and Process 

  • Two to three faculty members serve as leaders of each FLC. Leaders are invited to attend an FLC leaders’ coffee at the beginning of the academic year to share ideas and get support. 
  • FLCs often begin the academic year by sharing short readings to jump-start discussion. 
  • FLCs meet at least three times per semester; some choose to meet as frequently as every three weeks. 
  • The goals, discussions, content, agendas, and outcomes develop iteratively throughout the academic year. 

Support and Funding 

  • Funding from the Center for Teaching can provide books to spark discussion during FLC meetings, enable FLC members to attend relevant community events, invite speakers, or participate in working dinners. 
  • The Center for Teaching liaison provides expertise in the form of literature recommendations, thought partnering, and collaboration.  
  • Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology administrative staff can provide additional support for meeting scheduling as needed. 


Each FLC sets its own goals, topics, schedule, and outcomes. One critical component of this work is assessment, which measures and understands the impact of the FLC. The Center for Teaching uses a model of authentic assessment for FLCs that includes participants in the design of assessment strategies and criteria and addresses the learning that is important to participants (Hubball et al., 2004). 

Current FLCs 

The Center for Teaching supports the creation of new FLCs and continually evaluates the interests and needs of UI instructors. If you’re interested in starting a new FLC, please email

Interested in joining or learning more about a specific FLC? Contact the Center for Teaching liaison for the group.

Student Research Teams. This community explores the potentials for building policy-relevant student research teams, including how to identify students for research teams, particularly those who might not otherwise be involved in research. This FLC supports activities related to Iowa’s strategic plan.

Community Engaged Research. This community explores how to support faculty and students who are involved in community-based research. This FLC supports activities related to Iowa’s strategic plan.

Assessing Assessment for Equity and Student Motivation. This FLC explores strategies for ensuring equity in assessment and helping students move away from grade-centered motivations. 

Cognitive Support for Student Learning. This FLC, co-sponsored by the P3-funded Learning at Iowa project, explores equitable strategies to nurture students’ reflection on their learning. Our aim is to discuss how to foster students’ metacognition and support their learning using empirically supported practices from cognitive science. 

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). This FLC provides a place for faculty to learn about SoTL, support each other in pursuing SoTL, and discuss ways to make it more visible. 

Playing with Education: Gamifying the Classroom. This FLC explores strategies for incorporating games into teaching with the goals of facilitating content learning, engaging students in active learning, and making learning fun. We’ll also explore integrating the tech and tools needed for leveraging games and gamification principles into a course. 

Recent FLCs 

Close Looking. A collaboration between the Stanley Museum of Art and the OTLT Center for Teaching, this FLC used Shari Tishman’s “Slow Looking: The Art and Practice of Learning through Observation” to explore a museum-originated practice for using close looking to enhance analysis in any discipline. 

Cashore. Members of the FLC discussed “The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion,” by Sarah Rose Cavanagh. The book presents evidence from psychology and neuroscience that underscores the potential power of emotion to inspire and fuel learning. FLC members also attended a Hancher performance of “Simple Gifts,” a series of vignettes focused on emotion, by the Cashore Marionettes. 

Big Ideas Courses. This FLC was developed to provide an environment for faculty members involved in the Big Ideas Program to share pedagogical strategies and curricular design, as well as to discuss the development of the program at the UI. 

Other Communities

Are you interested in discussing instructional technology with others? The Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology Academic Technologies team facilitates technology interest groups

Big Ideas Faculty Learning Community