Supporting community college faculty across the STEM disciplines

Workshop seeks to connect community college faculty to resources

By Robin Hailstorks, PhD

Robin HailstorksOn Oct. 7-9, I participated in a workshop held at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., that brought together 25 educators representing 13 disciplines to address the isolation of community college instructors and their lack of engagement with disciplinary societies and NSF-funded projects. This workshop succeeded an earlier NSF-funded faculty initiative sponsored by the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College. The overall aim of this workshop was to improve student learning across STEM disciplines by increasing community college faculty use of existing resources. The major outcome of the workshop was the creation of materials that could be used by community college faculty. These materials will be hosted on the SERC website.

The website includes materials that can be used in each discipline (i.e., ready-to-go activities for faculty development and links to existing resources to improve undergraduate education and faculty professional development) and information shared by workshop participants and others so faculty can continue to learn from one another across disciplines.

The workshop goals were to:

  • Learn about NSF-funded projects in various disciplines for community college faculty.
  • Contribute to the revision of the existing project website, providing a portal to resources from STEM disciplines and entry points based on key issues community college instructors face (e.g., faculty isolation, involvement of contingent and full-time faculty in professional development activities, limitations imposed by resource-poor institutional settings and issues associated with teaching students with a range of backgrounds and goals).
  • Develop a set of materials appropriate for faculty development activities at individual colleges to increase community college faculty use of existing discipline-based resources available through professional associations or NSF-supported projects such as this one hosted by SERC.
  • Develop a personal action plan (participants were asked to offer a professional development workshop for STEM faculty on their home campuses that would use the website and to assess materials developed at this workshop or commit to disseminating the faculty development materials through their professional organizations or projects).

Prior to the workshop, each participant was asked to submit an essay that addressed the following two questions:

  1. From your perspective, what are the two things that your disciplinary professional organization or discipline-based NSF-funded project does particularly well in support of your work as an educator? Please be specific about how this activity works and why it is effective. Add Web links if available.
  2. If you could propose (and obtain funding for) one new activity to engage community college instructors in professional associations and other discipline-based projects related to teaching and learning, what would it be? Describe the activity and explain why it is needed and why it is not currently available.

These essays are posted on the project website (PDF, 1.2MB).

Following an intensive two-day meeting, workshop participants created individual and/or disciplinary society action plans that will be implemented over the course of next year. I will be meeting with the representative from the American Sociological Association and the Association of American Geographers later this month to discuss ways in which disciplinary societies can support the work of community college faculty.

I strongly encourage you to visit the SERC site to learn more about the outcomes of this workshop and the materials that will be available for faculty. If you have an opportunity to attend a similar type of workshop, I also encourage you to participate to network with colleagues and share the resources that emanate from these meetings through the Psychology Teacher Network. This was one of the best professional development programs that I have ever attended. I hope you find these resources helpful. If you have any questions about this workshop, please contact by email.