"Briefly, each faculty learning community is a cross-disciplinary community of eight to ten faculty engaged in an active, collaborative, year-long curriculum focused on enhancing and assessing student learning, with frequent activities that promote learning, development, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and community."

— Milton D. Cox, “Proven Faculty Development Tools That Foster the Scholarship of Teaching in Faculty Learning Communities,” 2003. 

General Criteria that Define Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs)

  • Ongoing opportunity. Faculty members meet regularly to learn about and reflect on their teaching. FLCs focus on specific topics about pedagogy in higher education.
  • Faculty-led group. FLCs also receive support from the Center for Teaching and other relevant University of Iowa units.
  • 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 & Process

  • FLCs often begin the academic year by sharing short readings that can be used to jump-start discussion. Members can build on these early discussions to create individual teaching projects that are assessed or more global projects around curricular or policy design or contextualizing what is happening on a campus in light of the larger frameworks of contemporary higher education. Frameworks created by professional organizations, such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities, could serve to guide discussion and outcomes at this level.
  • FLCs are encouraged to choose readings from a range of genres, including academic journals; serial publications in higher ed, such as the Chronicle of Higher Ed; periodic publications by national/international higher ed organizations, such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities; fiction; and the popular press. 
  • FLCs meet at least three times per semester; some meet as frequently as every three weeks.

Support & Funding

  • Center for Teaching staff can help organize the group, schedule meetings, and reserve rooms. Center staff members attend and participate in FLC meetings when appropriate.
  • Funding from the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology can provide books used to spark discussion during FLC meetings, enable FLC members to attend relevant community events, or participate in working dinners

Current FLCs 

The Center for Teaching supports the creation of new faculty learning communities and continually evaluates the interests and needs of UI instructors. If you’re interested in starting a new faculty learning community, please email us at teaching@uiowa.edu.  

  • Assessing Assessment for Equity and Student Motivation. Launched in June 2021, this FLC will explore strategies for ensuring equity in assessment and helping students move away from grade-centered motivations.
  • Cognitive Support for Student Learning. This FLC is a cross-disciplinary community of faculty members who explore 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 SoTL more visible. 
  • 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. 

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 Emotions,” 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 Faculty Learning Community