Systemic Change in the Consortium

Last week at the Assessment, Teaching, and Learning Conference, this blog was used as a visual aid during the “Creating a Successful Faculty Learning Community: Exploring the Formative Application Process” session. I didn’t attend this session but several people talked to me about it afterwards. I want to respond a bit more to four comments which I hope will explain my ethos as a writer.

1. Can I really use your grant? Do I need your permission? 

Yes, and you already have my permission. I am modeling two things that I hope to see more in the future. First, I’m supporting the SBCTC’s mission of openly licensing state-funded projects. With or without this policy, I would have shared our work because that’s what I believe in as an educator. I’ve learned this model of scholarship, teaching, and learning from people I think hung the moon.

Second, it pains me that there aren’t more FLC grants involving eLearning. My thinking is that if I show you what an FLC looks like that’s connected to eLearning, then it will spark some ideas for your institution.

Here is a link to the grant. 

We desperately need FLCs connected to educational technology and we need Communities of Practice 2.0. Sure, there is no research to substantiate my ideas right now. Or if it’s out there, I haven’t had time to find it. My literature review on this topic was a history lesson for me that’s entirely been useful. Almost everything I’ve read made me question, “How can this help adjuncts?”

And that’s the thing. The FLC model does not take into consideration the reality of our I-5 flyers. The reality of almost 3/4 of our teachers. The reality of teaching at more than one institution in the same day. The reality that you can work in this system and never get a full-time job. The reality that teachers love what they do and they want to learn. The reality that nobody–or very few–institutions invest in their professional development. The reality of being an adjunct. The reality.

Yes, I’m not sure if this will work. That should not prevent us from trying something new that is working elsewhere for teachers. Connected learning, PLNs, MOOC-style learning, connectivism, etc. and [enter future term here] are all possibilities that we need to explore as a system. We can improve how our teachers learn in this consortium. We can build systemic change that begins locally. But it’s got to use the digital space or we are just recreating the wheel up and down the I-5 corridor and over the Cascade mountains.

2. You repeat yourself quite a bit in the grant. I don’t see the difference between goals and measurable outcomes.

Think about who you are writing for–we call this audience awareness in the Composition field. Right now, I’m writing for folks who have to meet this FLC deadline and for anyone else who may bump into this post via the Twitter machine. For your grant, you may have several people on the committee who are deciding from several different perspectives. You could have one person from the budget office, one person who reports to another person, one person who is not connected at all to the people who are in charge of FLCs. In other words, you have no idea. No idea.

You are not writing for you. You’re writing to convince somebody that what you want to do is a dire need on your campus.

So answer every question as if that’s the only thing they will read from you. They will decide based on what you have written to answer that question.

If question 2B sounds a lot like 2A to you, bust out the thesaurus and spice up your word choice. Do not write “See 2A” when you can answer by rewording your ideas. Imagine every person on the committee is looking at different sections to make their decision.

And you’re right, goals and outcomes seem similar. It looks redundant upon first read. Look again.

The goals are stating what you’d like to do. Short-term/long-term ideas and desires–here’s what you want to do.

The outcomes are how you’ll support that you actually accomplished the goals–here’s how you’ll tell others how you did it.

Put “Bloom’s Taxonomy” and “Verbs” into your favorite search engine. Use measurable verbs. Use them once. Spice it up. Language is too lovely to say the same thing the same way. Why say “wave your ten fingers madly” when you could say “Jazz hands”?

3. This blog is kind of boring. You could make it a lot nicer looking. 

Yes, I chose this template to show total newbies that you can set up a blog with very little tech-knowledge. This is a simple template that is very easy to use. I chose something I knew I could teach somebody else in less than 30 minutes. I’m always thinking of the newbies–there are loads of options for more advanced people. That’s not my demographic. Fancy blogs scare newbies from blogging. Start with an easy template and learn how to improve it. Remember that “audience awareness” idea from above? The same goes with your medium of expression.

4. Can I do exactly what you wrote? 

Yes, please do! If you can make this work at your institution, I’ll be so happy. In fact, if it falls apart, you can blame me. I’ll own it. If it rocks, I’ll pretend like it’s all yours and I’ll brag to your upper-administration that you are geniuses. This idea is entirely possible on a smaller scale. I just couldn’t make it work on the scale that I hoped to accomplish. And guess what? It’s totally fine. I’ve learned a lot. On Friday of this week, I’m going to do something we’ve never done in this corner of the consortium and I’m beyond thrilled with who will be in the room, what we’re going to talk about, and how I’ll share the information.

And here’s the other very exciting thing. Alissa Sells and Jennifer Whetham are also interested in how we can change this FLC model to meet the needs of our consortium. I’m very interested in their work. The system. The consortium. What will Communities of Practice 2.0 look like in WA state? I don’t know. Let’s find out.

Remember this bullet from the SBCTC website:

  • FLCs increase communication and collaboration amongst faculty who, by the nature of their work in individual classrooms, are often isolated from their colleagues.

Sadly, that’s essentially how I felt as an adjunct in this system. I want to change that feeling of isolation for our teachers. It can be a bit better. The reality can change.

Here are the top things I’ve learned as a co-facilitator and some ideas that I wish I had known when we won the grant. I’ve said some of this elsewhere in this blog. 

Start early. Get your meeting calendar together in July. It will be very hard to think about your calendar for the upcoming school year, but you must. Don’t try to build-it-as-you-go. It may never get off the ground the way that you envisioned. This is essentially the theme of this blog.

Start talking to people who are like-minded. Accept that you need help. Find the yin to your yang and then make them your co-facilitator.

Your FLC may be the map that will help you find colleagues. I’ve already said this in another post, but I can’t stress the importance of imagining the colleagues you haven’t met yet. You have a doppelganger at every institution in this system.

People are over-reacting about the creation of openly licensed artifacts. It’s not that hard. If this is problematic to you, read my post where I explain it’s not that hard. It’s not that hard. Look at this blog. This is my artifact. Open does not mean perfect. Open does not mean peer-reviewed. Open means you are sharing with people who want to learn from you. It’s not that hard. Open is perfect when you share. Period.

Focused retreats can work. Shoreline has done an incredible job with their Accessibility FLC. They got a group together around a similar goal and they’ve created something we can all use. Peg and I are attempting this idea with our Unconference on Friday. Meeting OL throughout the year to do research, addressing a problem, and then coming together to solve the problem can work. I will post these results about our FLC and my presentations at ATL because I believe in systemic change in this consortium. And you can have fun doing it.

Why do an FLC? Because they legitimize the time you are spending to solve a problem at your institution. It’s as simple as that. It will help you steal time. And that’s a fact. You’ll feel like a hero. We could steal time/just for one day/We can be Heroes, for ever and ever/What d’you say?

Wait. Somebody else has said this way more fabulous than me, right? Right.

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