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California State University, Long Beach
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

The Faculty Learning Community

CNSM Faculty Members Challenge Students and Themselves to Maximize Both Learning
and an Appreciation for Science and Mathematics

How university professors teach has evolved rapidly in the past decade, so to keep pace, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM) has successfully implemented a faculty development project that is now showing the desired result of student success via applied and interactive Faculty Learning Communities (FLC). These FLCs provide CNSM faculty members with the tools, support, and networks needed to enhance and innovate their teaching.

Impact of Best Practices in Teaching

Faculty members in CNSM know that to have successful graduates in science and math, we must engage students with innovative, effective, inquiry- and research-based teaching. As part of reaching this goal, our college is developing a community of teacher/scholars who think critically not only about their field of research, but also the effectiveness of their teaching and student learning in their courses. TheCNSM/learning page has atwo-fold gold:

  1. to disseminate "best practices" to our faculty members (best practices deriving both from external resources and our own pedagogical research in the CNSM), and
  2. to interact with the broader CSULB community of educators, students, and parents as we work to continually enhance student learning in the CNSM.

Learn more about our unique and effective FLC

While FLCs are not novel to the pedagogical community, in CNSM we have designed and implemented a discipline- specific model that not only enhances teaching effectiveness and student learning, but also fosters positive faculty interaction. This model has proven successful for the past two years at CSULB, within CNSM. In the CNSM FLC, faculty members are asked to:

  • explore pedagogical literature,
  • select and incorporate new pedagogies,
  • assess their impact on student engagement and learning,
  • make adjustments when necessary, and
  • report their findings.

View the FLC reports.

How does the CNSM FLC Work?

Faculty members will take part in a discipline and college-specific program that unfolds over three semesters:

Semester 1: Faculty members (n=7-10 per college per semester) participate in a hybrid Faculty Learning Community (FLC) course researching effective and engaging teaching techniques. In particular, faculty will be coached on how to integrate a greater degree of primary literature and experimental results into courses at all levels. Throughout the first semester, faculty members are involved in online topic-specific discussions about posted readings that examine teaching and learning, recommended pedagogies, and best practices that have been shown to work within their discipline. Faculty members are also assigned small tasks to complete during the course to apply the inquiry-based learning techniques.

Semester 2: Faculty members propose a change to enhance student inquiry and engagement in their classroom, then pilot & evaluate course changes (with peer coaching).

Semester 3: Faculty members refine their teaching based on results from their evaluations of student cognitive and affective learning (assisted by peer coaches). Faculty are encouraged to disseminate their results to a wider audience (e.g., conference presentations and publications) and to serve as peer leaders of their college FLC.

FLC Goals

Providing faculty with an efficient mechanism to engage in research and evaluation of inquiry-based learning will increase: 1) how faculty perceive inquiry-based pedagogies, 2) overall faculty use of inquiry-based pedagogies, 3) student affective/cognitive learning, and 4) student exposure to discipline specific research and inquiry. Essentially, by enhancing how faculty members in the CNSM teach, we can increase the number of engaged and successful students. Training faculty members how to implement inquiry-based teaching techniques exposes more students to research based-thinking and promotes development of future scientists and mathematicians, as well as developing critical thinking skill sets in all students.

Does participation in the FLC affect student success?

In short- yes! Not only does participation in the FLC impact student success, it also impacts faculty perception of teaching. While typical faculty learning communities have varied impact on student success and teaching practice, our CNSM FLC have had excellent success in improving student learning, retention, and attitudes about courses in CNSM. The Department specific reports will give you an idea of what FLC members did both during and after "graduating" from the FLC!