Teaching Commons > Programs > Faculty Learning Communities

Faculty Learning Communities


FLCs consist of small groups of instructors (10 max) who meet regularly throughout the academic year to learn together about a specific topic related to teaching and learning. FLCs are designed to be supportive environments where members can engage in a variety of activities and experiment with new approaches to teaching; share successes and challenges; reflect on teaching practices and learn about instructional strategies and tools. FLC members will share their knowledge with the DePaul community. 

Our 2023-2024 Faculty Learning Community descriptions are listed below. The deadline to apply to participate in a Faculty Learning Community is October 30th, 2023.

Apply to Participate in an FLC

Faculty Learning Community Group Summaries

AI Teaching and Learning Collective 

Facilitated by Kristen Pengelly and Margaret Poncin Reevs

"This learning community seeks to empower faculty members to critically engage with generative AI technologies in their teaching, explore innovative approaches, and collectively shape the future of education in an AI-driven world." -ChatGPT 

The launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI in November 2022, along with other readily available generative AI platforms like Bard, Claude, DALL-E, and Tome, is already up-ending higher education (Bogust, 2023; Marche, 2023; Kichizo Terry, 2023). As the pace of this change accelerates faster than the pace of university policy, many faculty may feel left to navigate these upheavals on their own, with emotions ranging from giddy excitement (Khan & Evans, 2023) to existential dread (Bucknall & Dori, 2022).

With this context in mind, this faculty learning community is designed to engage in dialogue around the ethical and pedagogical concerns of integrating AI into the classroom, including questions of bias, academic integrity, privacy, and critical thinking (Bender et al., 2021; Babaro, 2023; Cotton et al., 2023; Noble, 2018). Participants will have the opportunity to develop prompt engineering skills to better understand how students might use generative AI as well as how faculty can integrate AI tools into course planning. The group will share insights into how we are integrating AI use in our courses. 

Faculty interested in exploring advancements in pedagogical technology, including those who are completely new to the world of generative AI, are encouraged to join. The collective will have a virtual D2L space for asynchronous work and meet virtually 2-3 times per quarter.

Identity Politics in the Classroom 

Facilitated by Lourdes Torres and Ann Russo
Debates about identity politics have riled universities and colleges across the US over the last few decades. This learning community will explore the role of identity and identity politics in our classrooms. The Combahee River Collective, a group of Black lesbian socialists coined the term, identity politics, in the 1970s. At its core “identity politics” has to do with how identity and experience informs people’s social understanding of a particular issue. Supporters argue that identity politics are vital so that groups marginalized due to aspects such as race, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, etc. can critically understand their status and oppose the ways they are oppressed. Detractors argue that identity politics are essentializing, divisive, and lead to fragmentation of society into discrete groups. Different perspectives about the term have led it to be mobilized in opposing ways by both the left and the right. 
In this learning community, we will trace the origins of the term and the context in which it was developed. We will examine how identity politics has evolved and then been taken up, challenged, and reshaped over the decades. We will also consider how concepts such as identity, authenticity, standpoint theory, intersectionality, power/knowledge, elite capture, own voices, etc. shape these debates. 

Questions we will consider: 
  • What is at stake in identity politics for teachers, for students? 
  • How does it impact classroom discourse and dynamics? 
  • Why does it matter? 
  • Can focusing on identity/identities foster interconnectedness rather than fragmentation?

From Surviving to Thriving: Mindful Engagement, Joy, and Teaching

Facilitated by Elissa Foster
Although the immediate exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic have waned and allowed our return to classroom instruction, faculty members and students alike are experiencing the consequences of so many months spent online or masked. Faculty members note high levels of absenteeism, late or missing assignments, and evidence of students’ fragile mental health. Two years after the end of remote learning, students still report feeling academically and emotionally unprepared for college (Hall, 2023). All of us are tired at best and, at worst, on the brink of burnout (Cavenaugh, 2023). The current state of difficulty offers us a unique opportunity to engage a mission-focused conversation around what must be done to uplift both faculty and students, and to re-energize our classrooms in this evolving pandemic era. 

This learning community will address the following question: What specific activities will help us to sustain a mindfully engaged and joyful teaching practice? The focus of this learning community is inspired by the Vincentian Pedagogy Project offered through the Office of Mission and Ministry and the Center for Teaching and Learning during 2022-2023. The project brought together faculty members from across the university to discuss and define the core precepts of teaching through a Vincentian framework. A core element defined by the group was the ability to engage a relational approach to teaching based on authentic, mindful classroom engagement. This learning community will take up that theme and define how that engagement might be achieved by faculty from a diverse set of disciplines and learning environments.

Most of the interaction of this learning community will be online; however, because of the nature of the topic and the relationships we will cultivate in the service of support and joy, the group will meet in person twice during the winter quarter and twice during the spring. The proposed dates are all Friday mornings: January 26, March 8, April 26, & May 31. The campus location of our meetings will be determined once the group is formed.

PISCES (Participatory-Interdisciplinary Sustainable Community Engagement Studies) Research Opportunity Discussions

Facilitated by Leodis Scott 
Given the focus on interdisciplinary courses and programs, the goal of PISCES Research Opportunity Discussions is to consider potential interdisciplinary research projects among faculty across the ten colleges of DePaul. We will meet virtually 3-4 times per quarter and maintain collaborative discussions via Google applications.  Those selected will participate in a scheduled in-person orientation under the newly established CLEAR (Consortium for Leadership, Education, and Assessment Research) Network Center, a university-wide initiative to advance interdisciplinary research projects with community and city partners. Discussions will be facilitated using Tuckman's Model of Team Dynamics (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning) and other facilitation strategies for faculty research development.  

More specifically, these research opportunity discussions will take advantage of the existing resources across DePaul University including Teaching Commons and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). SoTL provides a vital connection between research and teaching for developing faculty at DePaul. During the PISCES collaborative discussions, opportunities may emerge to enhance student learning, to publish in academic journals concerning the scholarship of teaching and learning, and to engage in other shared opportunities including conferences, grant proposals, and future collaborative research projects.   

FLC Structure 

FLCs consist of small groups of instructors (10 max) who meet regularly throughout the academic year to learn together about a specific topic related to teaching and learning. FLCs are designed to be supportive environments where members can engage in a variety of activities and experiment with new approaches to teaching; share successes and challenges; reflect on teaching practices; and learn about instructional strategies and tools. By the end of the academic year, the FLC members will share their knowledge with the DePaul community. The exact format of this knowledge sharing is somewhat flexible and might include one or more of the following: 

  • A presentation or facilitated discussion at DePaul’s annual Teaching and Learning Conference in Spring 
  • A guide or resource page shared via the Teaching Commons 
  • A collection of reusable learning activities or teaching materials that can be incorporated in inclusive curricula 


FLC participants will receive $300 each. 

Please note that participant’s stipends are issued after the learning community has shared their knowledge with the DePaul community. Participants must attend meetings regularly and actively contribute to the learning community in order to remain eligible for the stipend. FLC participants will receive $300 each. ​

Apply to Participate in an FLC

Alternatives to Traditional Grading

Bradley Hoot | College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences | Modern Languages

Grading presents many challenges. We want our students to focus on learning, and ideally grading provides useful feedback that will help them understand what they’ve learned and where they still need to improve, yet all too often our grading systems don’t match our intentions. At their worst, some traditional grading practices elevate points over learning, incentivize academic dishonesty, and sap students’ motivation. Alternative grading systems, such as ‘ungrading’ or ‘specifications grading,’ promise better student outcomes and superior focus on learning assessment, yet they may come with their own pitfalls. This learning community explored theories of grading and examples of popular alternative grading systems. Our goal for the year was to develop a clear understanding of what traditional and alternative grading systems entailed, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each system, so that we could choose the most effective grading systems for our courses in the future. The learning community functioned largely as a discussion-based reading group, meeting for 90 minutes once a month to discuss a single book at each meeting. At the end of the year, each participant designed one possible grading system implementation for one of their courses, and we collaboratively generated a list of pros and cons of each of the grade systems we reviewed.

As a result of participating in this learning community, faculty created new grading rubrics for their courses. View samples of the rubrics and materials: 

Salli Berg Seely | Contract for a "B" Grade

Olya Glantsman | Graduate Class Grading

Bradley Hoot | Spanish Linguistics Syllabus

Kristen Pengelly | Communications Analysis Paper Assignment

PEER Support for Faculty Doing Education Research

Mary Bridget Kutusch | College of Science and Health | Physics and Astrophysics

Tim French | College of Science and Health | Chemistry and Biochemistry

With our focus on teaching, many DePaul faculty in a variety of disciplines were interested in conducting education research or expanding their scholarship of teaching and learning. Our goal was to create a supportive community for faculty who wanted to get started in education research and/or expanded their theoretical or methodological expertise for conducting education research. We met virtually 2-3 times per quarter and maintained asynchronous communication via Slack. We also participated in the intensive in-person Professional Development for Emerging Education Researchers (PEER) field school hosted at DePaul from Dec. 15-18 (https://peerinstitute.org/peer-chicago-2022/). The field school targeted specific topics in education research and connected us to the broader community conducting education research, particularly in the Chicagoland area. The meetings were responsive to participants' goals, focusing on discussions of topics related to education research and on giving and receiving feedback on individual projects. Work outside of the meetings was on participants' individual education research projects and/or on readings decided on by the group.

You can review a summary of the research projects faculty developed while participating this learning community here.

DePaul Parallel Universe Practicum

Paige Treebridge | Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media

“Many designers and educators want to create games that appear real, but they are unsure of how to accomplish this."[1]

The DePaul Parallel Universe Practicum (DPUP) invited professionally-isolated faculty, those suffering from extreme online exposure, and despondent educators to retreat into make-believe and play (for funding purposes: to research and build prototype learning universes.)

From 2018 to 2021, faculty and students at the University of Chicago’s Fourcast Lab have built immersive learning games that took place as part of freshman orientation.[2,3,4] Students were drawn into the games via rabbit holes, “camouflaged anomalies within the real world (i.e., Rabbit Hole) that peaked people’s interest and included a call to action to engage with the experience."[1] Students who chose to investigate further were rewarded with new clues, or breadcrumbs. The 2018 game cultivated research skills and a sense of interdisciplinary collaboration.

The DePaul Parallel Universe Practicum studied learning games and alternate reality games. We learned to design and modify small, immersive learning games as part of our classes, labs, and even as social events for new students at DePaul.

We co-learned to build learning games using online and offline signs, interactions, and events. We studied models that could be used by one or two instructors.

No experience with games or gaming was necessary. All participants in this community had the opportunity to work with the DIGI Lab to create instructional games for their courses. 

Microlearning: A Bite-Size Tool with a Big Impact

Joel Reynolds | Driehaus College of Business
Mary Jo Dolasinski | Driehaus College of Business

Conventional learning methods are facing challenges; student engagement is impacted by diminishing attention spans. The influences of smartphones, social media, and the quick bursts of information gathering done by a “Google” search are frequently cited as reasons for this change. This is especially true with younger generations, including Generation Z. As students’ learning needs and requirements continue to evolve, the need for student engagement is becoming more prominent in the conversation. This issue is further compounded in a post-COVID-19 environment, as it drives the curriculum design, paradigm shifts, pedagogy, and industry expectations. Furthermore, classes are now being taught in numerous modalities including in-person, online (asynchronous and synchronous), hybrid (in-person and online), and trimodal (in-person, online {asynchronous and synchronous}). Higher education classrooms need to consider new approaches to their lessons. 
The aim of this learning community was to discuss the use of microlearning in the online classroom (asynchronous or synchronous). Microlearning is an approach that focuses on a “bite-sized” single concept, utilizing multi-modality (e.g. infographic, short video, discussion board, etc.) in a focused short amount of time (5-12 minutes). It can be easily incorporated into most courses in any discipline. This learning community explored the elements of microlearning and how microlearning can be an effective teaching tool in various disciplines. The discussions also included how to repurpose current content into microlearning modules and the benefits of this approach for the instructor. You can view an example microlearning module created by the FLC here.

Leveraging Prior Learning to Facilitate New Learning

Nicholas Hayes | School of Continuing and Professional Studies 
Roni Buckley | School of Continuing and Professional Studies 
This Learning Community helped participants understand the complexities of prior learning, articulate their own definition of college-level learning and develop ways to leverage student prior learning to demonstrate learning outcomes.
Understanding the complex relationship between prior and new learning can help instructors improve their courses while demonstrating greater respect for their students’ life experiences. In addition to these benefits, prior learning can provide alternate pathways to demonstrating learning outcomes. 
However, knowledge from prior learning can be an asset or detriment to emergent learning depending on an individual student’s experience and disposition. Some experiences provide students with clear articulations of college-level learning. But often this knowledge is tacit and requires reflection to surface. Once surfaced it can be applied and adapted to a variety of academic purposes including providing a scaffold for new ideas and information. In contrast, if prior learning is insufficient or inaccurate it can hinder the acquisition of new knowledge. 
Instructors who develop an understanding of single-loop learning (acquisition of new knowledge that confirms prior mental constructs) and double-loop learning (acquisition of new knowledge that challenges or contradicts mental constructs) can better foster learning especially for adult students who are bringing with them vast reservoirs of experience. Deepening our understanding of prior learning fosters learning across the lifespan. In the collegiate environment, it must be met with academic rigor thus a generalized definition of college-level learning is crucial.  
Members of this FLC presented what they learned in community with each other at DePaul's 2022 Teaching and Learning Conference. 

Applying  Intersectionality:  Teaching  Agents of Disempowerment After Hurricane Katrina

Gwendolyn Alexis | School of Continuing and Professional Studies 

Disasters like Hurricane Katrina juxtapose physical events with vulnerable populations.  This 2005 disaster displaced 1.5 million people from Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  With 986  deaths,  Louisiana was the hardest hit state in terms of victimhood.  So, what cohort groups were most vulnerable in Louisiana?  Do the statistics support time-worn narratives linking disempowerment with race or gender?  Not quite – although Katrina mortality statistics for Louisiana indicate that  51% of those who died were black,  42% were white.  As for gender, the largest percentage (53%) of Louisiana’s  Katrina decedents were male.  Focusing on singular causes to explain marginalization in society indicates disciplinary short-sightedness and will thwart the intellectual curiosity of scholars working in any discipline.  Moreover, to the extent that the field is one that informs public policy – such as Sociology – great public harm can result.  Pointing fingers at the usual suspects (race and gender) can lead to overlooking other stigmatized statuses linked to victimhood such as being elderly.  Forty-nine percent of Louisiana’s Katrina deaths were people aged 75 or older even though this age cohort represents less than 6% of the Louisiana population. Hence, Louisiana’s elderly were disproportionately represented among the non-evacuees.  Not having in place plans to evacuate the elderly and infirm is a startling breach of the public trust and a dereliction of the duties vested in states under the  U.S. Constitution to protect the welfare, safety, and health of the public.
This Learning Community harvested the seeds of theoretical discontent sown by Katrina’s uprooting of outdated disciplinary trenches to identify agents of disempowerment. Participants were encouraged to share the ways their respective disciplines plan to, need to, or have moved  away from simplified one-cause explanations of inequality. An example of the progress being made is the  “third wave”  of Feminist Theory heralded by sociologists.  It moves away from a narrow focus on gender discrimination and utilizes the broader theoretical lens of  Intersectional Theory (“IT”) to understand and explain inequality.  IT  depicts a  social world in which statuses of race, gender, and class can intersect, creating a matrix of inequality and marginalization.
Members of this FLC reflected on what they learned in this white paper

Diversifying the Curriculum and Creating Inclusive Teaching Spaces

Olya Glantsman | College of Science and Health 
What we include in the curriculum and how we structure and lead our classes affects more than just the academic experiences of our students. Being in a minority comes with fewer opportunities to see yourself represented or acknowledged in the majority’s view and may cause students to feel alienated, marginalized, and misrepresented as their histories, narratives, and experiences are omitted from mainstream discourse. As most academic disciplines have been influenced by a history of colonial thinking with western attitudes dominating academic narratives and practices, we must work to decolonize academic settings and diversify our course materials and practices. At the same time, we must create inclusive teaching spaces to foster growth and learning of all students.
Members of this learning community created a series of infographics on inclusive teaching methods for faculty to use in their course development. 

Balance Learning Community: Infusing DEI in Your Courses

Michele McCay | College of Science & Health | Health Sciences
Cricel Molina | College of Science & Health | Health Sciences
The Finding Balance Learning Community (Finding Balance LC) focused on integrating practical ways to increase the diversity, equity, and inclusive nature of course learning materials (e.g., texts, readings), course activities (in-class activities, assignments), learning environment (e.g., practice active listening and respectful inquiry, utilizing diverse learning tools beyond textbooks), and practice-based enhancements for courses (e.g., guest speakers, real and virtual field excursions). 
Additionally, the Finding Balance FLC paired up members for a collaborative partnership in the pursuit of incorporating DEI foundations into their courses. This faculty learning community helped foster evidence-based pedagogy rooted in pushing faculty to utilize authors, theories, and knowledge from traditionally marginalized groups or more diverse sources to improve teaching and learning. In addition to improving their own courses, members of this FLC drafted a decision tree for faculty to consult as they explore assignments and reading for their classes. 

Faculty Learning Community in Foundational STEM Courses

Kyle Grice | College of Science & Health | Chemistry and Biochemistry
Dr. Margaret Bell | College of Science & Health | Biological Sciences
The Learning Community in Foundational STEM Courses worked together to examine best practices for increasing feelings of belonging and inclusion, decreasing the gap between hard work and academic success, and increasing interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Hundreds of DePaul students enroll in foundational STEM courses, such as general chemistry, general biology, calculus, physics, environmental science, and other courses during their first years of college. 
Students often negatively view introductory STEM courses as “gate-keeper” courses that serve as barriers to their career goals. Students from underrepresented groups, those who are first-generation, and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to experiencing feelings of cultural and/or academic discomfort due to accumulated disadvantages. Members of the FLC are motivated to implement new strategies in their upcoming courses or have worked individually to confront these issues.
Collectively, the FLC shared resources and concrete strategies on teaching and learning in the classroom for improved diverse student success in STEM. Several approaches have been explored in the literature and previously at DePaul. This FLC examined these approaches in-depth and discussed them, then brought back recommendations to their own units and classes to help improve outcomes for students at DePaul. Learn more about the resources developed by this community on CTL's blog. 

Disability Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Teaching Learners with Disabilities at DePaul

Kelly Tzoumis | College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences | SPS/PPS
Kent Klaus | College of Business | Accounting 
This learning community focused on bringing together faculty expertise for reaching out to the learners with disabilities who are enrolled across the university.  This is often an overlooked community of diversity equity and inclusion at DePaul.  Participating members had a common level of dedication and desire for working with this learner, and will share skills and pedagogies across the university for the benefit of this learner. Participating in this learning community provided access to a collection of useful materials, guest speakers, and interaction with the network of organizations that support this learner in the Chicago region. It served to link this community of faculty experts on the subject matter, and advocates in the faculty who shared attributes with this community for the benefit of providing a universal design approach toward teaching this learner.  
This FLC was designed to engage in a variety of activities and experiment with new approaches to teaching for learners with disabilities.  Also, it shared successes and challenges particularly relevant to the pandemic online instruction and how it has impacted this learner. Current and relevant research were discussed and shared as well as input from experts external to DePaul for understanding innovative approaches unique to this learner.  Members of this FLC developed a workshop for OIDE's BUILD Diversity Certificate.