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Profiles of Participation Outcomes in Faculty Learning Communities

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Tips and Tricks for Actively Engaging Students

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

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Paper Authors


Margret Hjalmarson George Mason University

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Margret Hjalmarson is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University and currently a Program Officer in the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings at the National Science Foundation. Her research interests include engineering education, mathematics education, faculty development and mathematics teacher leadership.

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Daria Gerasimova George Mason University


Jill K. Nelson George Mason University

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Jill Nelson is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at George Mason University. She earned a BS in Electrical Engineering and a BA in Economics from Rice University in 1998. She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for graduate study, earning an MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering in 2001 and 2005, respectively. Dr. Nelson's research focus is in statistical signal processing, specifically detection and estimation for applications in target tracking and physical layer communications. Her work on target detection and tracking is funded by the Office of Naval Research. Dr. Nelson is a 2010 recipient of the NSF CAREER Award. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and the IEEE Signal Processing, Communications, and Education Societies.

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Research suggests that changing undergraduate teaching often requires promoting instructors’ knowledge and use of interactive teaching strategies and providing instructors with support for their teaching (Felder & Brent, 2010; McCrickerd, 2012). Faculty learning communities are one means of supporting teaching development (e.g., Anderson & Finelli, 2014; Sirum & Madigan, 2010; Zemke & Zemke, 2014). In our multi-year project, we organized discipline-specific learning communities in STEM departments. Four FLCs were launched in Year 1 with three continuing in year 2; four additional FLCs were launched in Year 2. These teaching development groups (TDGs) included from three to ten instructors. Each TDG was led by a faculty member from the department. Groups met throughout an academic year to discuss topics of interest, share experience, learn more about teaching and support each other in teaching. The study asked: what are profiles of participation in TDGs? To answer this question, we used a qualitative methodology. The collected data included semi-structured interviews from group leaders and members. Analysis was conducted through coding the transcribed interviews in Dedoose. The codes were synthesized into two participation profiles: Implementation Profile and Peer Support Profile. For members within the first profile, Implementation, they reported that during the meetings they learned about new strategies or other aspects of teaching. Some members found some of these strategies or aspects useful for their classes and wanted to implement them. While some participants stopped at the point of just considering implementation, others have already implemented the new ideas. Several participants indicated that peer accountability helped them to make the step to trying a new strategy. For other members, what they implemented was not necessarily a learning outcome from the meeting but an idea developed on their own for the purposes of the TDG. For instance, during a meeting, the group decided that each member would find a strategy to try in their classes and then report back to the group after implementing it.. For the second profile, the Peer Support Profile, some members indicated that they did not learn anything new at the meetings (e.g., they were already knowledgeable about interactive teaching) or discussed topics not directly applicable to their classes. Nevertheless, these members found the peer support beneficial. The group’s support was an affirmation that they are on a right track in their teaching. Importantly, the two profiles are not mutually exclusive. Many participants were at least interested in implementing newly learned ideas and felt supported in their teaching in general at the same time. Also, participants in each profile did not necessarily go through all phases; different participants currently are at different phases of the profile. These results contribute to knowledge about how faculty learning communities influence implementation of and support for interactive teaching. They systematized the possible participation patterns that can occur in a FLC. This knowledge might help other FLC organizers in developing their FLCs and understanding what kind of participation they may expect.

Hjalmarson, M., & Gerasimova, D., & Nelson, J. K. (2017, June), Profiles of Participation Outcomes in Faculty Learning Communities Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28763

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