Three Questions: Reflective Teaching Fellowship

A Unique Approach to Faculty Development 

The design of the Faculty Guild® Reflective Teaching Fellowship™ is unique. To be honest, it doesn’t look like other faculty development that many of us in higher education are used to. For starters, it’s not a course or a set of modules. Rather, it’s an experience centered on reflection and community — enabling faculty to think more deeply about their teaching and grow in ways that are authentic. 

As a former faculty member as well as an administrator who was always looking for meaningful opportunities to help faculty, I have been a part of a lot of educational development initiatives. When I first learned about the key design principles that inform Faculty Guild’s approach to online faculty learning communities, I was intrigued. We know that for true learning to occur and change in practice to take hold, faculty need to have the space where they can try evidence-based approaches, reflect on how those approaches worked and collaborate with peers in a community.

Over the last 12 months, we have spoken with hundreds of institutions about how they are supporting the professional growth of faculty. Without fail, there are three questions that faculty, teaching and learning center directors and institutional administrators always ask — so let’s answer them. 

Question 1: Who are the Faculty Guild facilitators?

Our facilitators are passionate, experienced faculty from across the country who are trained in the research that serves as the framework for our Reflective Teaching Fellowship.They have experience not only within their content area but also in evidence-based instructional practice, active learning strategies and student engagement initiatives. Facilitators undergo a rigorous selection and training process and become part of their own community of practice within Faculty Guild where they, too, reflect and focus on practice improvement. Many of our facilitators were involved in the original research that underpins our work — an experience that was so impactful that they want to continue the momentum of the Teaching Success Movement with faculty across the country. 

“The facilitator has been phenomenal. We started right away with a cohesive feeling. She was always available. She pointed out our connections and showed us how we were growing from each other. The experience has been just terrific.”

— Sora Rosen, faculty, psychology, Towson University and Faculty Guild Fellow 

Question 2: Do faculty really stay engaged week after week?

Yes! This question is asked so frequently probably because many of us have been a part of a community of practice that has a great start and then fizzles out as the term gets busy. Within the Teaching Circle, there are clear guidelines to help faculty understand their role in the community each week, ensuring that everyone is participating. For weeks that are going to be a bit more hectic than usual, fellows can opt to take a break — with no negative impact to the community. While reflecting on one’s teaching is valuable, the collaboration with one’s peers is even more so, and our Teaching Circles are designed to let faculty share stories, discuss the small moments in their teaching and make progress toward their teaching goals. This storytelling and community-building happens online, providing access for faculty when it’s convenient for them.  

“Remember that lasting change takes time. There is no magic bullet, but doing a weekly reflection builds a kind of habit. You will be learning from your own practice, your own colleagues, and it will stick.”

— Bed Paudyal, instructor, Language Arts, Honolulu Community College and Faculty Guild Fellow 

Question 3: How do you know fellows benefit from their Faculty Guild experience?

We are building a Teaching Success Movement, and an important part of that is our commitment to learning from our fellows. By listening to our faculty fellows, we have learned they crave a place to share their teaching, get ideas from others, feel supported, try new approaches and celebrate the small victories. Fellows stay engaged throughout the first term of the fellowship, but 80 percent continue for a second term. (In fact, currently we have some fellows participating in a third term because they find such value in this community!) Our fellows tell us that being a part of Faculty Guild is the most meaningful professional development they have been involved with. 

“I have written some great ideas for things to try in future semesters ... I have been designing new activities and have done better at communicating with struggling students. I'm excited to see how much farther I can go in the remaining weeks.”

— Heather Seitz, professor, biology, Johnson County Community College and Faculty Guild Fellow