Communities of Practice

Is there an area of teaching and learning that you would like to discuss in more depth?  Are you curious about how you can use high impact practices or other evidence-based learning techniques in your classroom? What about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)?  Would you like to discuss and share your ideas with others who share similar interests?  That’s what Communities of Practice (COPs) are all about.  The Teaching and Learning Forum is excited to provide an opportunity for you to participate in a community of practice in the upcoming year.  

What is a Community of Practice?

A Community of Practice is a group of 8-12 people who share a common concern, passion about a topic and come together with a facilitator to deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting with each other on an ongoing basis (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002 p. 4).  At Weber State, these communities of practice are groups of faculty and staff who commit to regularly scheduled sessions on a focus area in teaching and learning followed by actions such as planning and trying out the techniques discussed in the group.  Your community will provide a supportive environment where members can experiment with new approaches to teaching and learning, share successes and challenges, and/or engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) through collaborative research projects and dissemination of instructional practices and tools. (Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, & William Snyder, 2002).Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.)

Sign-up here.

What are the goals of a Faculty Learning Community?

  • To promote faculty interest in teaching and learning, especially for undergraduate students.
  • To create collaborative spaces in which faculty connect with colleagues across disciplines.
  • To promote the exploration and study of theoretical and practical perspectives on teaching and learning.
  • To pilot short term or semester-long activities in classes or in our broader work with students.
  • To increase faculty capacity to apply evidence-based research to undergraduate education.
  • To cultivate reflective practitioners by reflecting upon individual and collective experiences.

Participant Outcomes:

Participants in learning communities should be able to demonstrate at least two of the following:

  • Integrate research-based, learner-centered, and/or inclusive pedagogies in their teaching.  Related activities could include reviewing and revising course materials such as syllabi, learning outcomes, and class activities.
  • Leverage collaborative relationships with colleagues across disciplines on topics related to learning-centered instructional innovation and student success.  Related activities could include sharing experiences, successes, and challenges with colleagues in the learning community; providing feedback on observations and/or research design and implementation.
  • Disseminate practices and scholarship with the broader teaching community at and beyond WSU.  Related activities might include sharing work through presentations, sharing instructional resource materials, and/or presenting findings at a TLF event, an external venue or through publication.

What are the Benefits of Joining a Community of Practice?

  • Participants become members of a community of peers with shared interests in teaching and learning at WSU.
  • The community provides an inclusive space where members share experiences, ideas and strategies about teaching; experiment with evidence-based practices; build skills; engage in SoTL research; and reflect on their roles as educators. 
  • Each learning community is given a $500 budget to be used as the group determines will best meet the needs of the group (ie, books, supplies, lunches, etc.).
  • Members of learning communities can include their participation as professional development efforts to improve teaching on tenure and promotion documents and faculty annual reviews.  When you make changes to your teaching based upon your participation in a faculty learning community, you can explain those changes as innovations in the aforementioned documents.
  • Participation in a Faculty Learning Community is part of the “Ten Before Tenure” initiative.

Community of Practice Expectations

  • COP members will actively prepare for, attend, and participate in community meetings.  (COPs will likely meet once or twice a month, depending on the group and its goals.  The semester schedule will be set during the first meeting).
  • Each group will submit an executive summary and reflective analysis of their COP participation by May 1, 2022.
  • COPs will be expected to share their learning, activities, and their reflections at the TLF Symposium during Spring Semester.
  • Each COP will also provide some sort of deliverable that can be shared with a larger audience (either at WSU or an external venue). For example, you could select one or more of the following options:
    • Provide instructional resource materials (instructional tools, teaching strategies, videos,  annotated bibliographies,  presentational materials, etc.) on the topic of their COP for the larger teaching community at WSU.
    • Present their work at a conference venue beyond WSU.
    • Publish the findings of their work (through portfolios, white papers, academic journals, etc.)

2021-2022 Communities of Practice

Facilitating Experential Learning Online

Facilitators: Brent Horn and Sally Cantwell

The global COVID-19 pandemic has required higher education to move all courses to a virtual environment. It is apparent that some of the most difficult courses to move online are those that involve experiential learning - labs, simulations, creative and performing arts, project-based learning, and other hands-on learning opportunities. The purpose of this community of practice is to help faculty develop and implement creative solutions for engaging students in hands-on learning in a virtual environment. Participants in the COP received funding for their efforts to explore and implement online experiential learning activities into their online and virtual courses.


Facilitator:  Rich Fry
This community of practice provides faculty and staff with an introduction to community engaged learning. Members of this COP will explore community engagement pedagogies, student reflection design, reciprocal partnership building, community research models, community project design, and a variety of additional topics. Members will also network with community partners.

This is a great opportunity for faculty looking to incorporate community engagement into their classes and those seeking publications with a community tie. Staff involved as adjuncts and with student leaders will also benefit from this introductory class as the group brainstorms ideas together.


Facilitators: Tom Mathews & Melina Alexander
The Inclusive Excellence COP will support faculty efforts to address equity and diversity at the course level, in the context of ongoing campus initiatives around inclusive excellence.  Participants will assess resources on inclusion in the classroom and apply principles of inclusive excellence to their own pedagogical and course design choices.


Facilitators: Heather Chapman
Have you ever wondered why one teaching strategy is effective and another isn’t? You can research that question and many others through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)Community of Practice. SoTL uses discovery, reflection, and evidence-based methods to research effective teaching and student learning. Members of this COP will be part of a collaborative research effort focusing on 1-2 SoTL projects decided upon by the group or pursue individual research projects.  The desired outcome is publication of the group’s SoTL research.


Facilitators: Alice Mulder, Carla Trentelman, Julian Chan, and Stephanie Speicher

The Sustainability Community of Practice will focus on fostering sustainability teaching and learning by faculty from across campus.  The facilitators (from Geography, Sociology, Economics and Education) of this COP include faculty who have been engaged in sustainability teaching and training.

The Sustainability COP will meet 8 times during the year, with fall semester meetings likely scheduled on four Thursdays from 1:30-3 p.m.  Sessions will include:

  • Definitions of sustainability, in its most expansive sense;
  • Intersectional points of connection and relevance across the curricular landscape;
  • Connections to our place: campus, community and region;
  • Possible brief content area presentations (particularly relevant to our locality/region);
  • Reflection;
  • Dialogue and sharing of resources, challenges and solutions with fellow faculty from an array of disciplines across campus; and
  • Time to workshop, learn and implement with colleagues a step-wise process to help include sustainability in some way into your own course (the articulation of learning outcomes, the collection of resources and strategies for assessment).

For the 2019-2020 year, faculty who attend at least 7 of the 8 COP sessions and successfully apply during the spring semester to have one or more of their courses listed with the SUS course attribute (which indicates that course includes sustainability in some way) will be eligible for a $750 honorarium at the end of the academic year.  Space is limited to 10 faculty


Facilitator: Jo Ellen Jonsson
Focus on ways that technology can breathe new life into your classroom. Whether you teach online, face-to-face, or both, you’ll discuss ways to enhance everyday teaching and learning as well as engage with your students.  This COP will explore the use of innovative technologies that meet your teaching objectives and learning outcomes, and help you connect more deeply with your students.


Facilitator:  Anne Bialowas

The goal of this group is to not add one more meeting or thing to do, but rather share ideas of how to be more efficient as we juggle multiple responsibilities in our professional and personal lives. The desired outcome is for members to share ideas, technologies (apps, for example), grading techniques and practices from their own departments and/or colleges to create efficiency and a strong work/life balance.


Facilitator:  Leah Murray

“Headlines! Headlines!  Read all about it!” Students, faculty and staff now have full complimentary access to the and NYT mobile apps, thanks to our institution-wide subscription. This COP will focus on innovative uses of the NYT to enrich your classroom and the educational experiences of your students. 


Facilitator:  TBD

Explore the use of evidence-based teaching and learning approaches and implement them into your own classroom. This COP will focus on using “intentionally designed educational activities” that contribute to students success in the classroom.


Facilitator:  TBD

This community of practice will focus on adjunct-related issues and concerns as they relate to teaching, learning and adjunct faculty success at WSU.

Equity and Inclusion in Early Childhood Education

Facilitators:  Sheila Anderson & Alex Collopy

This group is an interdisciplinary effort from the Moyes College of Education inspired by the recent (September 2019) National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) position statement, “Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education”. We engage in reading and discussion beyond our initial reading of the NAEYC equity statement, to policy and contemporary scholarship around equity and in/exclusion in early childhood education at the local and national level. Members of this COP will produce scholarship around inclusion policy and pedagogy, implement learning about equity and inclusion in our course instruction and content, and host on-campus events to support pre-service teacher and community awareness of issues related to in/exclusion in early childhood education.

Positive Pedagogy for Student Mental Health

Facilitators:  Dianna Abel, Sheila Anderson & Michelle Paustenbaugh

Join this new Community of Practice to discuss strategies you can use in the classroom to make a positive impact on student mental health. This group will provide a forum for faculty to discuss perspectives on student mental health as well as related pedagogical approaches, student communication, and aspects of course structure. We will build our understanding while we generate ideas and tips to be implemented in courses of any type.

Click here to sign up for a community of practice.