DTEI Newsletter

Fostering Faculty Learning Communities to Encourage Teaching Dialogues, Faculty Engagement, and Peer Support

by | Apr 10, 2023 | DTEI Newsletter, DTEI Stories

The UCI Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI) is devoted to preparing faculty to be self-sufficient in designing pedagogical innovations that embrace inclusive excellence and encourage student engagement to enhance the learning experience and support student success. One means of fulfilling this vision is cultivating a cohesive community to motivate faculty to engage in reflective teaching discussions, exchange teaching experiences, and encourage peer consultation support. Thus, the DTEI recently launched a series of new faculty development programs that foster faculty engagement and peer discussions around teaching.

Coffee Meets Teaching 

Coffee Meets Teaching is a new program that DTEI launched for the 2022-23 academic year. Originally proposed by Jennifer Wong-Ma (Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences), the Coffee Meets Teaching program invites faculty from across campus to come together, share coffee, and discuss their teaching experiences throughout the year.

Each quarter, DTEI sends out a call for faculty participants. Interested faculty submit their teaching profiles and the specific teaching topics they are interested in discussing with their colleagues. Faculty participants are then invited to a mixer event where each faculty member has short conversations with other participants to determine who they would like to continue meeting and discussing with. Following the mixer event, faculty are given $10 Starbuck gift cards to continue talking with their matches over coffee. At the end of the quarter, the group reconvenes to share their experiences and highlight the key takeaways from their coffee conversations.

Last quarter, 19 faculty from 10 academic schools joined the program and exchanged their teaching profiles with each other. As a result, these faculty found that many of their peers implemented similar digital tools to enhance teaching, and they became more open to sharing their experience using these digital tools with each other and faculty outside the program.

In this way, the Coffee Meets Teaching program offers a great way for faculty from different disciplines to connect while fostering the exchange of instructional strategies, course designs, technological implementations, and other practices that help faculty improve their teaching. 

Visit the Coffee Meets Teaching webpage to learn more about the program and view the list of faculty participants.

Specifications Grading Faculty Learning Community

Over the past year, nearly 30 UCI faculty participated in the Teaching Experiment Academy and the Digital Learning Institute where they learned how to implement specifications grading into their courses. These faculty were then invited to join the Specifications Grading Faculty Learning Community (FLC). The Specification Grading FLC is a group of faculty who have expressed a particular interest in implementing specifications grading into their courses to support students in mastering their learning. The group meets on Canvas to discuss curriculum design, student onboarding, and teaching best practices related to implementing a specifications grading structure.

This faculty-run learning community welcomes all faculty and graduate students who are passionate about assessment design, inclusive teaching, and alternative grading strategies. Together, the group brainstorms teaching ideas, discusses implementation benefits and challenges, and exchanges success stories and personal classroom experiences. To strengthen community ties, DTEI hosts a quarterly Specifications Grading FLC Breakfast gathering that invites members to meet and discuss their teaching experience with implementing specifications grading.

By making FLC content, resources, and decisions accessible online, DTEI fosters an inclusive community that all faculty members can contribute to, regardless of their schedules or time constraints. Additionally, by promoting in-person connections via the FLC Breakfast, the Specifications Grading FLC represents a good example of what effective community-building in the 21st century can look like.

Visit the Specifications Grading FLC webpage to learn more about the community, current members, and available resources.

The Inclusive Course Design Institute

Inclusive teaching supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEI-A) in the classroom has become a popular topic in higher education. However, every faculty has their own perspective and unique practice for cultivating an inclusive learning environment for their students. Thus, DTEI is collaborating with faculty members who are passionate about the subject to establish the Inclusive Course Design Institute (ICDI) in Spring 2023. 

The goal of the ICDI is to provide pedagogical resources and encourage faculty discussion in the areas of inclusive excellence, transparency in course design, accessibility, humanizing teaching, and pedagogical wellness. More than 50 faculty and grad students have enrolled in the program, and participants will take part in weekly cohort meetings to engage in conversations about best practices and strategies for supporting DEI-A for teaching and learning.

Visit the ICDI webpage to learn more about program contributors, highlights, and other details.

Conclusion and Additional Resources

In conclusion, high-quality faculty development encourages faculty to use and persist in effective teaching approaches (Condon et al., 2015). Finelli et al. (2008) found that almost any level of consultation with faculty development professionals produced improvements to teaching practice, and more interaction produced more change. Other research indicates that sustained and intensive support, such as that from faculty learning communities or instructional coaches, is necessary for faculty to adopt new practices to a degree that significantly influences student learning (Chasteen et al., 2015). We hope these new faculty development programs supported by DTEI will generate positive communities that help faculty teach more effectively and better support student learning (Gibbs, 2013; Trigwell et al., 1999). 

For more information about these faculty development programs, please email DTEIsupport@uci.edu


Chasteen, S.V., C.E. Wieman, K. Perkins, and W. Code. 2015. The Science Education Initiative: An experiment in scaling up educational improvements in a research university. pp. 125-139 In G.C.

Condon, W., E.R. Iverson, C.A. Manduca, C. Tutz, and G. Willett, G. 2015. Faculty development and student learning: Assessing the connections. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Finelli, C., M. Ott, A. Gottfried, C. Hershock, C. O’Neal, C., and M. Kaplan. 2008. Utilizing instructional consultations to enhance the teaching performance of engineering faculty. J. Engineering Education 97(4):397–411.

Gibbs, G., and M. Coffey. 2004. The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills,their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5(1):87–100.