Educational Development Unit staff have served as catalysts and leaders for several communities of practice that are hosted in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. These communities of practice form around specific teaching and learning activities, programs, approaches, and topics.
Teaching Scholars. All recipients of Teaching Scholars project grants participate in a community of practice, which meets regularly throughout the academic year. The purposes of this community of practice are: (1) to create opportunities to learn from one another; (2) to provide mutual support through the successes and challenges associated with project work; (3) to engage in collaborative problem solving; (4) to explore cross-discipline partnerships and links between projects; and to maximize Teaching Scholars impact at the University of Calgary by creating collaborative outputs.
Taylor Institute Learning Spaces. Each semester instructors can apply to teach their course in one of the flexible, technology rich learning spaces in the Taylor Institute. The purpose of teaching in these learning spaces is to better understand and improve student learning and the teaching that facilitates that learning. To support instructors and provide opportunities for sharing and disseminating their experiences the Taylor Institute hosts a community of practice for the instructors within that semester. For example, during the Fall 2016 semester we held 3, 1-hour sessions for the instructors teaching during that semester to come together and discuss topics such as “What activities have you tried in the learning space?” or “What has the experience been like for you and your students?”. As each semester a new cohort of instructors come into the space we also host a lunch and learn (called the TI Learning Space Mixer) that brings together the previous semester’s instructors with the upcoming semester’s instructors to learn from each other. At these mixer sessions a few previous instructors provide informal presentations that generally spark in-depth discussions and questions about being in the space. We document the conversation to share with the university community, including campus planning.
Makerspaces. The makerspaces community of practice is comprised of staff and faculty members interested in the potential of spaces that enable students to learn by doing and making. This group meets bi-monthly at a variety of locations around the University of Calgary, and has 15-20 members from the EDU, Libraries and Cultural Resources, the Schulich School of Engineering, Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Environmental Design, Risk Management, and the surrounding community. This has resulted in discussions around how to harmonize health and safety training across these disparate groups (where appropriate), and some preliminary explorations into sharing resources.
Teaching Academy. The Teaching Academy is a group of institutional-level teaching award winners from the University of Calgary. Collectively, the Teaching Academy members are committed to supporting the development of individual and collective teaching practices on our campus; they do this by developing and implementing a wide range of structured and ad-hoc teaching development supports. Internally, the Teaching Academy also serves as a community of practice to its members, offering opportunities for the group to meet and engage in informal discussions about a variety of issues related to teaching and learning.
Flipped Teaching and Learning. As flipped learning becomes more common at the University of Calgary we saw need to bring together flipped learning advocates to not only share their experiences, but also to create resources for the rest of the community. This community of practice has started in ‘book club style’ by reading and discussing Flipping the college classroom: practical advice from faculty (Honeycutt, 2016).
The purpose of starting with a current book is to generate ideas on what practical advice the community can create and share with the rest of the community.
Inquiry based learning. As a result of a themed conversation about inquiry based learning hosted at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, a community of practice focused on inquiry based learning will be launched in Fall 2017.
Documentation and Materials
Makerspaces community of practice blog
Teaching Scholars community of practice development notes
Teaching Scholars community of practice UToday article
Teaching Scholars community of practice presentation at the University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching
Learning Spaces community of practice UToday article
Teaching Academy community of practice foundations document
Assessment Strategies and Results
We have been engaged in the process of establishing strong communities of practice that are hosted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning; many of these communities are still in the process of developing their purpose, terms of reference, structure, and processes. Depending on readiness, some of the communities of practice have started to assess their effectiveness. Research projects are underway to evaluate the processes and impacts of the Teaching Scholars, maker space, and Teaching Academy communities of practice; results of this research will affect how the communities are actualized and will inform both popular and peer reviewed publications.
When the remainder of the communities of practice have been well established, we will begin to assess their effectiveness through both formal and informal means. Historically, anecdotal conversations with community members have been very effective in generating meaningful feedback. We will also consider surveying or more formal interviews to determine what is working well and what needs modification within the communities of practice.
Reflection and Impact
Communities of Practice provide a way for us to connect faculty and staff with specific interests and strengths with like-minded peers from across the campus community. This results in collaborations within and across disciplines which otherwise wouldn’t be possible. The communities of practice also provide informal time and space for participants to discuss issues of interest within teaching and learning. Many participants acknowledge the value of these informal conversations in terms of the influence on their teaching practices.