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Learning teams : a communities-of-practice approach to faculty development and university course design

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Learning teams : a communities-of-practice approach to faculty development and university course design

Barrington, Janette M (2006) Learning teams : a communities-of-practice approach to faculty development and university course design. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Success or failure in teaching and learning is often associated with the level of expertise in individual faculty or motivation and abilities in students. Rarely do departments or the university as a whole share responsibility (Biggs, 2001). A potential gateway to change is learning teams, an abridged title for learning-oriented course design teams (McAlpine, 2002a). Learning teams are intentionally organized around course design projects that evolve over time to foster learning from experience. They provide an opportunity to deliberate on course decisions with a strategic group of people---faculty, pedagogical experts, instructional technologists, librarians, and students---for the purpose of initiating change. Learning teams represent a systematic process for linking people to new communities of practice, crossing boundaries we may not even know exist. The research context is McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Internal funding was provided to increase access to a core faculty development workshop on Course Design and Teaching (CDT). The CDT workshop is a five-day intensive experience that provides a framework for helping professors think intentionally about their instructional decisions (Saroyan & Amundsen, 2004). A major challenge in the workshop over the years has been how to model and make explicit issues around the role of technology in instruction, and more recently information resources, while preserving the theoretical integrity of the workshop. The redesign of the CDT workshop with these goals in mind presented an opportunity to experiment formally with the learning team strategy. A learning team met for one year, generating and reflecting on the results of three design iterations. Grounded theory analysis of interviews with participants proceeded through an initial searching phase looking for variation in perspectives and dominant themes followed by focused coding and the seeking of patterns. Findings were validated through triangulation of different data sources (interviews, observations, documents, products) and two credibility checks (one with a colloquium of the learning team and another with an external consultant). Only findings validated with participants are cited. A conceptual model of learning teams emerged with a core concept captured in the phrase "a systematic way of talking to each other" and seven related concepts: context sensitivity, mutual goals, diversity, design framework, dialogue, collective self-reflection, and momentum. The model integrates literature from the fields of faculty development, university course design, and educational technology. What fundamentally happened in the learning team? A WebCT environment now houses a dynamic record of the CDT workshop. People in the Libraries are cued to how they can best inform the course design process. Team members have a deepened awareness and shared commitment to multidisciplinary collaboration. However, in concentrating on achieving explicit goals the team failed to reflect collectively on their own learning that occurred. Focusing attention on team processes provides a way forward on this research agenda. The real problem will lie in scaling out the learning team strategy. A new reality is needed in the professoriate to move people from individual responsibility to collective responsibility in university course design, not as groups of experts but as multidisciplinary teams.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Education
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Barrington, Janette M
Pagination:ix, 203 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Education
Date:2006
Thesis Supervisor(s):Abrami, Philip
ID Code:9040
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:18 Aug 2011 14:43
Last Modified:18 Aug 2011 14:56
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