Look at the words, I’d say.

Before I proceed, I have to acknowledge Peg’s promotion. She is now our Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning. Well done, you!

It’s now officially one year since I’ve taught an English class. Rereading my last post and my cryptic introduction made me think. How many times did I ask a student to be more specific? Look at the words, I’d say.

Hunting for the repetition of words is something that I used to ask students to do who were struggling with reading comprehension. If you want to become a better writer, I’d preach, you have become a better reader. I would try to convince them that reading was like a treasure hunt for ideas. These students–typically over the age of 25–struggled to be on par with the superb high school students who already knew the game. Adult learners and younger students mentoring one another is a success story of effective learning spaces (be specific). This exercise helped poor readers grow into better readers. Sherman Alexie’s “Superman and Me” allowed students to figure out how to find his themes. I chose this reading because it was available on the internet for free, and I found that this helped my students who were waiting for their financial aid check. At the time, I didn’t know this was a style of teaching with OER (I didn’t know this acronym)–I just knew it helped my poor students stay in class. Students would highlight, circle, and jot down notes when they saw the same words repeated. The brighter ones would connect what Alexie was saying about race, class, and literacy while the others learned how to read carefully.

Later when I did the same exercise with online students, they would create a Wordle. When we repeat something as writers, I would preach, we are trying to emphasize something. That was the genius of Chris Farley’s character Matt Foley, the motivational speaker who warned kids about the ways you could end up in a van down by the river.

As I’ve been reading Building Faculty Learning Communities , I’ve noticed several words keep reappearing.

Flexible. Autonomy.Funded.Purposeful.Challenges.Pitfalls.Change.Strategy.Space.


Physical space.Technology.Networking.Access.Isolation.Hinder.Cycle.Central.

Here are two quotes that I mentioned to Peg in our last meeting:

“Unfortunately, learning communities always seem to push against an institutional glacier that grinds away at innovation, smoothing it out and trying to make it like everything else.” (p.8)

“Thus, the challenge for campus leaders is to devise an implementation strategy that pulls people towards voluntary FLC acceptance. It is easier to implement a change with people than to change people.” (p. 45)

from “Institutional Considerations in Developing a Faculty Learning Community Program”

 Here’s a phrase I can’t let go from the reading: The Illusion of Progress.

Advice for FLC grant writers: Start with what you’d love to see if nobody could say no to your ideas. Imagine there are people at 33 other colleges in WA who feel the same way. Ask yourself, what can I do that I can share with others? Ask yourself, what can I create with my colleagues that will bring joy into somebody’s teaching? Ask yourself, what’s best for students?

Answer those questions first. Daydream. Think. Sketch. Always keep in mind who is funding you and their goals. You can’t have a plan just for you, your department, your discipline, and your institution. It’s got to be magnified by 34. Note this sentence from the rubric in the grant guidance booklet.

“The proposal describes the learning artifacts it will create and shows how these connect to the FLC goals and outcomes. The proposal identifies multiple means and channels for dissemination of its knowledge, experience, and wisdom within the FLC itself, its home institution(s), and the larger ATL and eLearning communities.”

You are one of the 34, and those colleagues exist. You just haven’t met them yet. (Repetition, for emphasis).


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