Most faculty have little training in pedagogy, and yet teaching well is the central expectation for faculty at Northwestern. Almost all faculty here spend the majority of their time on this task, and yet teaching is one of the most solitary activities in which most faculty engage. Faculty rarely share syllabi, assignments, assessments, or lecture materials with each other for critique and encouragement, and faculty rarely sit in on each other’s courses to offer constructive comments and learn from each other. Too often the only time faculty have peer feedback on their teaching occurs during formal evaluations.
This approach is far less formative than summative and does little to help faculty grow into superb educators. Incentivizing and systemizing faculty learning communities can help change this for all faculty, early to late career. Developing such Teaching and Learning groups can help nurture mentoring relationships, help faculty more smoothly negotiate the transition to being a NWC faculty member, and foster innovation and excellence in teaching at NWC.
Ideas from Other Institutions
Such faculty communities have been used at the University of Georgia and Southern Methodist University.
Suggestions for Northwestern
Faculty learning communities of 4-6 faculty would be formed of early, mid, and late career faculty across several disciplines. These communities would meet once every 3 weeks (5 times per semester). Members would share teaching ideas and strategies, materials, and difficulties with each other. Community members would sit in on at least two classes per semester of each member and give feedback. Community members would become experts in each other’s teaching. New faculty could be mentored and helped to prepare for their 2, 4, and tenure evaluations. Mid- and later career faculty would be challenged to continue to innovate and grow as teachers.
These Learning Communities should be incentivized in some way, possibly with faculty development funds and funds for lunches or breakfasts together. These learning communities would be a part of the faculty evaluation process, serving as peer evaluators who can speak into the progress that has been made over the years by the faculty member under review.
Goal 1.3 -Advance the quality and reputation of the academic program – Increase opportunity and resources for faculty-student collaborative research and scholarship.
Goal 1.4 – Advance the quality and reputation of the academic program – Raise the reputation of Northwestern as a leader in Christian thought, scholarship, practice, and artistic expression.