TitleFaculty Learning Communities Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentCenter for Faculty Excellence
RequestorMarilyn Lockhart Phone406-994-4555
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts This proposal will cross and impact all academic departments in Bozeman
Proposed Dates Start: July 1, 2013 End:  
The Center for Faculty Excellence proposes 10 to 15 cross-disciplinary Faculty Learning Communities that will engage in an in-depth study for one to two semesters on various topics related to teaching, research/creativity, and the integration of learning, discovery, and engagement. Additional shorter term communities are proposed as well. Members will implement changes in their classes, increase dissemination of their research, and integrate learning/discovery/engagement into their practice. A faculty fellow and graduate student assistant will facilitate and support the groups.
All Faculty Learning Communities align with MSU Strategic Plan of:
Integration: Objective 1.2; Increase work across disciplines.

Faculty Learning Communities will align with the MSU Strategic Plan according to their topic of study. The sum of all the FLCs’ alignment is:
Learning: Goal #1: Preparing students to graduate equipped for careers or further education,
Discovery: Goal #1: Raise the national and international prominence of MSU in research, creativity, innovation, and scholarly achievement.
Integration: Objective 1.1, Increase the integration of learning, discovery, and engagement
The leadership duties of the faculty fellow and graduate student will align with:
Engagement: Objective E.3: MSU students and faculty will have increased opportunities for leadership development and experiences.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries       95400      .5 
Benefits       17155       
Materials & Supplies       22500       
Travel       29000       
Contracted Services              
Other Operations              
TOTAL 164055    .5 
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

There will be two types of Learning Communities: Long term groups that meet for one to two semesters and shorter community groups that will travel for a visit to another institution or conference to gain knowledge about a topic related to teaching or other subject related to the Center's work. 

Faculty Learning Communities:10 to 15 long term groups: $31,500 total with an estimated $22,500 for materials and supplies and $9,000 for travel. The exact amount for these categories is an estimate, as each group will be alloted a set amount of money and they will decide the most effective use of the money to complete their project. Money can be used for materials, special events, consultants, data analysis, travel to other institutions to meet with experts, travel for experts to come to MSU, or food. Funding for groups will vary from $300 to $3000 depending on the topic. 

Materials: $22,500

Travel:  For long term FLCs: An estimate of 5 trips at $1800 per trip. Shorter term FLCs: Funding over three years for eight to ten faculty active in the Center’s work  to travel as a group to visit an institution or attend a conference on teaching or other topic relevant to the Center’s work = $20,000.

Total Travel: $29,000

Salaries =  $95,400

Benefits =  $17,155

Faculty Fellows: $12,000 for two course buy-outs for an academic year @ 3 years = $36,000 plus benefits of 19.11% ($6,880) = $42,880.

[Note that faculty benefits were calculated at 19.11% upon consultation with Kathy Attebury, Budget Director because these faculty already have health insurance benefits]

 Administrative Associate II: Working half time for 9 months = $7,800 base @ 3 years = $23,400 plus benefits of 42.94% ($10,048) = $33,448

 Graduate Student Assistant: $12,000 per academic year x 3 years = $36,000 plus benefits of .63 % ($227) = $36,227.   


Describe the Proposal

Background: Continually providing faculty with the tools to help them deliver excellence in all areas of their jobs of teaching, research, creativity, service, outreach, and engagement, is fundamental to our ability to bring about student success and graduates who are fully equipped for careers and further education.  In the past, professional development activities were directed on a part-time basis from the Provost’s Office and the Teaching and Learning Committee and events focused on teaching. I was hired by the Provost in Fall 2011 to expand offerings and make recommendations for staffing.  In September 2012, the Board of Regents approved the creation of a Center for Faculty Excellence with the mission of supporting the professional development of all faculty (tenure and non-tenure track) across all career stages in the areas of teaching, research, creative activity, service, outreach, engagement, leadership, and work/life integration.  Staffing consists of the director, a program coordinator shared with the Provost’s Office, and an academic technology specialist.   

Under my leadership for the past academic year, 70 workshops and discussion groups were held with a total of 1,346 participants (some being repeats) from all colleges on all aspects of faculty life, including teaching, research, creativity, service, outreach, engagement, and work/life integration. I gathered input from faculty at MSU in a variety of ways including moderating two open work sessions with faculty, meeting twice with Faculty Senate, obtaining data from participants at the end of sessions conducted during AY 2011-12 and this fall, and gathering input from other faculty and administrative groups and leaders.  I visited four premier faculty development centers in the country, attended two national conferences for leaders in faculty development, and consulted with numerous directors of faculty development centers. The following proposal is based upon my work and the mission of the Center. 

Overview of Faculty Learning Communities:

Numerous authors in the field of faculty development have written about the value of what are called Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs). These are are cross-disciplinary groups of six to 10 faculty who engage in an active and collaborative program over multiple meetings (generally a semester and in some cases two semesters) on topics related to their jobs or addressing institutional priorities.  The ongoing nature of the groups can result in more in-depth and substantive changes than attending one-time workshops. Research has shown that participating in these work groups can result in significant changes in teaching practice and thus an increase in student success, substantial contributions to institutional goals and priorities, the creation of new curriculum, and an increase in publications and grant success.  Additional outcomes include an increase in faculty collaboration across disciplines which can be long lasting and a sense of belonging and satisfaction with the institution which can lead to increased retention (McAtee & Hansman, 2012).

Two characteristics of successful groups is that they 1) are facilitated by individuals who are trained to do this type of work, and 2) produce a specified product (Garrett, Benedicks, Gunn, & Light, 2012). One particularly successful approach has been to fund each group at a pre-determined level and then the group decides how to spend the money most effectively to achieve the goal.  The state of Washington has this approach and funding is centralized by the Washington State Board.  Typically, they fund their FLCs at $3000 to $5000, depending upon the study topic.   

 Montana State University Faculty Learning Communities to date:

We have had our own version of FLCs starting in Fall 2009 with book discussion groups and expanded our topical area to writing in Fall 2012.  The book groups read a book about teaching and meet multiple times to discuss the book and how faculty can implement the techniques in their classes.  We have had book discussion groups once a year since this time and they have been extremely popular, with individuals often being placed on waiting lists for the next offering.  Jan Zauha from the Library and I have facilitated these groups and coached others to assist with facilitation. This fall semester, the Center for Faculty Excellence, in partnership with the Writing Center, created MSU’s first writing groups for faculty.  In these two pilot groups, individuals meet and critique each other’s writing for publication.  The writing groups filled within 48 hours of advertisement. Kirk Branch from the Writing Center and I are facilitating these groups.   

Proposal details

The Center makes the following proposals:

1.    Ten to 15 extended and in-depth study FLCs over a period of three years.  Two to three groups would be established the first year and the rest over the next two years. These groups would differ from current groups in that each group would be asked to produce a product at the end of their work and meet over the course of a semester or two semesters.  Each group will be assessed on outcomes and will be asked to present their results at a session for all faculty. Modeled upon successful groups at other institutions, each group will be provided with pre-established funding and each group will decide how to spend the money to complete their project. Similar to the Washington State program, the money could be used for materials, special events, consultants, travel to other institutions to meet with experts, travel to bring experts to campus, or food.  The amount of money given to each group will vary according to their topic and would range from $300 to $3000. Each group would submit monthly reports to the Center detailing their work, progress, and budget expenditures.  

The following is a description of groups that could be established for academic year 2013-14. Topics for future years could include the social, behavioral, and economic research (SBE) initiative and globalization in the classroom. Other subjects could emerge.  The groups would be established by the Center director and facilitated by the director or the faculty fellow. A graduate student assistant in the Adult and Higher Education Program would assist in facilitation, conduct research for the groups, provide support as needed to all the groups, and review progress reports. They would be available to meet one-on-one with group members to help with individual work.      

1.1.        One Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Group funded at $3000.  This group would meet for two semesters and addresses MSU’s Strategic Plan Learning Goal of preparing students to graduate equipped for careers or further education (Objective L.1: Assess and improve when needed, student learning of critical knowledge and skills) and the Integration Goal of integrating learning and discovery (Objective I.1: Increase the integration of learning, discovery, and engagement). Faculty who practice the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) engage in structured inquiry into the outcomes of their own teaching practice and subsequently publicly share and critique the results and process of inquiry.   According to Felton, Kalish, Pingree, & Plank (2007), small groups of faculty working together to design and conduct research about student learning in their own classes can produce more results than those working alone.  The goal of this group would be for each member to assess their teaching and student learning in at least one course, make revisions based upon outcomes, and prepare a manuscript for publication or presentation.     

1.2.        One Reverse Instruction Group (more commonly known as “flipping the classroom") funded at $3000. This group would meet for two semesters and address MSU’s Strategic Plan Goal of preparing students to graduate equipped for careers or further education. From a long-term perspective, increasing MSU graduation rates (Objective L.2) by reducing the DFW rates in some courses could potentially be achieved as well.  As the University embraces the move to active learning classrooms and redesigning classrooms to be Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) classrooms to increase student learning and success, faculty will want to study in depth how to flip their classes or use alternate instruction approaches.  There are multiple ways to implement this approach in classes (Eison, 2012) and this group will study the various methods that can be used by reading books on the topic and working with individuals within the University and outside who are using these methods. Their goals will be to make revisions to at least one course syllabus and implement changes in one course.

1.3.        Writing Groups funded at $300 per group.  These groups align with MSU Strategic Discovery Goal of raising the national and international prominence of MSU in research, creativity, innovation, and scholarly achievement and Objective D.1: Elevate the research excellence and recognition of faculty. Research has shown that faculty who write daily and are accountable to others write nine times as many pages per year as those who do not   Membership in a writing group can provide the support needed to achieve a substantial increase in publications and grant success, and numerous universities have established them as part of their faculty development offerings (Gray, 2010). Two pilot groups, created in November 2012, are intended to develop a structure and approach that is in alignment with the culture of our institution. If this proposal is funded, we will use a format and structure developed by the pilot groups to establish new groups beginning Fall 2013.  The goal of these groups will be to increase the number of pages written and for participants to submit one paper for publication or one grant for review.  

1.3.    Integration of Learning, Discovery, and Engagement group funded at $3000. This group would meet for one to two semesters and it aligns with MSU Strategic Plan Goal of Discovery: Increase the integration of learning, discovery, and engagement.  The goal of the group would be to develop a model for how faculty can become successful in integrating their three primary roles and responsibilities into a seamless academic life. The approach would follow Boyer’s model of the integration of faculties’ work lives. The expected product would be a model and presentation to all faculty at MSU. 

3.    A faculty fellow with a one course buy-out for two semesters for a total of two course buy-outs for the year. A call for a faculty fellow will be made each year. A current MSU tenure-track faculty would apply for the course buy-outs to learn facilitation skills, assist the director in the facilitation of some groups, take the lead in facilitating other groups, train others in group facilitation, monitor group progress, and provide other support to the group as needed.  According to accounts from other institutions and our own experiences here, the success of FLCs is dependent on the skills of the individual facilitating the session.  It should be noted that these skills differ from instructing a class of undergraduate or graduate students and are not intuitively known by individuals with those skills. The fellowship would afford the opportunity for faculty to enhance their own practice and learn new skills such as facilitation, leadership, and group/program management that could be used in other situations. The experience would provide evidence of their dedication to teaching, research, or service (depending upon their study topic) in their annual review and promotion and tenure documents as well as energizing senior faculty.  

4.    A graduate assistant from the Adult and Higher Education to work 20 hours a week. This individual would report to the director of the Center and work with the faculty fellow to assist with group facilitation, conduct research for the groups, and critique progress reports. They would be available to meet one-on-one with faculty in the FLCs when needed for assistance with projects such as designing research projects within their classes.

5.    An Administrative Associate II working 20 hours a week for nine months. This individual would record meeting progress, track attendance for the Center’s Membership and Certificate of Teaching Enhancement Programs, schedule meeting rooms, assist with group communication, make travel arrangements, manage team budgets, and other duties that arise during the work associated with this proposal. 

6.    Travel funding of $20,000 for faculty from multiple disciplines to form shorter term Faculty Learning Committees and attend conferences on teaching or other topics related to the Center’s work.  Consultations with other leaders in the field of faculty development have related that faculty groups that attend conferences on teaching or other specific topics related to their work can enhance their own skills as well as build longstanding relationships with other faculty. There are several high quality conferences on teaching, such as the Lilly Conference, held annually in Washington, D.C., a summer symposium at the University of Minnesota on teaching in active learning spaces (what we call TEAL classrooms), and a summer conference on teaching faculty to facilitate learning communities.   The faculty fellow, faculty participating in FLCs, individuals serving on the Center’s Advisory Committee or active in the Center’s work in other ways may apply to attend a conference or symposium relevant to their work.



Chism, N., Holley, M., & Harris, C. (2012). Researching the impact of faculty development. In Groccia, J., & Cruz, L. (Eds) To Improve the Academy, 31, 129– 145. Bolton: Massachusetts: Anker Publishing

Eison, J. (2012). Multiple ways to invert/flip instruction to enhance student learning. Presentation made October 24, 2012 at Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education Conference.

Felten, P., Kalish, A., Pingree, A., & Plank, K. (2007). Toward a scholarship of teaching and learning in educational development. In Robertson, D., & Nilson, L. (Eds.) To improve the academy, 25, 93 – 107. Bolton: Massachusetts: Anker Publishing Company.

Garret,C., Benedicks, C., Gunn, C., & Light, N. (2012). Creating and sustaining faculty learning communities. Presentation made October 24, 2012 at Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education Conference.

Gray, T. (2010). Publish and flourish: Become a prolific scholar. Ashland, Ohio: BookMasters, Inc.  

McAtee, K., & Hansman, C. (2012). Improving faculty development through peer coaching, learning communities, and mentoring. In Boden-McGill, C., & King, K. (Eds.) Adult learning in our complex world. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

Approval of this proposal would enhance teaching, research, creativity, and the integration of learning, discovery and engagement of faculty participating in this project. Cross-discipline connections established while working in the groups may be long lasting and expand to other interdisciplinary projects outside of the FLCs.  Writing groups may extend beyond the time supported by the Center, and the literature reports that these can last for many years.  Leadership experiences and skills learned by the faculty fellow may extend to other leadership responsibilities both within the department and university, and even nationwide to professional associations and other organizations.  Facilitation skills learned by group members could transfer to other learning communities or other settings in the University.  The “real life” knowledge and experiences gained by the graduate assistant can be used in his/her future career.  

Implementation Plan

Spring semester 2013: Call for applicants for faculty fellow and individual identified. 

Summer 2013: Graduate student in Adult and Higher Education identified.

Mid-August: faculty fellow and graduate student assistant begin work.

Late August: Call for individuals interested in Faculty Learning Communities scheduled to begin Fall semester.       

September 30: Fall Faculty Learning Communities begin.

October 15: Call to eligible individuals who are interested in attending spring and summer conferences. Guidelines and potential conferences announced at this time.

October 30 and monthly thereafter: Reports submitted to faculty fellow and reviewed by fellow and director.  

Every other month: Oral and written formative assessments conducted with each group.

November 30: End of semester reports due for review and assessment.

January 15: Establish additional FLC’s as scheduled.

April 15: End of project reports due for review by the Center and advisory committee.

This schedule would be followed for each of the three years.

Assessment Plan

Leaders in the field of faculty development recommend that the impact of educational development be using a mixed methods approach (quantitative and qualitative) and that behaviors be assessed as well as asking for self-reports (Chism & Harris, 2012).  Faculty Learning Communities will be assessed by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about progress towards group goals.   

The goals that are established for each learning community will include the documentation of a behavior related to the topic, such as a revised syllabus, implementation of results of class research, measurement of changes in student success, student assessment of changes, development of a model for practice, and manuscript or grant submitted for publication. FLCs will establish timelines towards their goals at the beginning of their work and every month, groups will submit a report describing progress towards goals.  As part of the report, they will be asked to answer questions such as identifying their learning points to date, challenges they have experienced, and any additional support or resources that are needed.  The faculty fellow or director will conduct a focus group session with each group every other month to discuss achievements.  At the end of the project, the FLC will submit a final report of their outcomes and the director or faculty fellow will conduct a quantitative and qualitative assessment as well. Groups will be evaluated according to accomplishment of goal/s and behavioral changes. Indicators of success will vary according to study topic and can include changes in classroom instruction, a revised syllabus, measurement of student outcomes, manuscripts or grants submitted, development of a model for practice, and presentation of results to the faculty.

The director, Associate Provost David Singel, and members of the Center’s advisory committee and other individuals active in the Center's work will review final reports and make recommendations for new study topics based upon institutional goals and priorities. FLCs will present their results at an open session with all faculty.  

The faculty fellow and graduate assistant will be assessed in regular meetings with the director and evaluated in their work with the FLCs. The director will meet at least once a semester with groups facilitated by the faculty fellow.  Indicators of success include positive interactions and facilitation of the group, providing support to the group when needed, and group goal attainment.  

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

Since the FLCs will have pre-established timeframes to conduct their work, they will all end automatically upon reporting their results at the end of their projects.  The ending dates of the faculty fellow and graduate assistant will be the end of Spring semester each year.  The director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, the Center's advisory committee, and the associate provost will evaluate the value of program at the end of each year. If the goals of the program are not met, the program will be discontinued.     

Dean/Director: David Singel (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (