Community of Practice Results in Report Designed to Aid Educators
By: Ellen Zamarripa

Facilitating effective discussion in the classroom was the focus and goal of the CETL Community of Practice entitled Manning CETL COP"Effective Discussion Techniques" directed by Associate Professor of English, Carmen Manning.  As her year as a CETL Fellow draws to a close, Manning says she is proud of the educators involved in her COP.

"The educators that were a part of the group are committed to making discussion a central part of their classes and they found new ways to improve their previous ways of discussion integration," Manning said.

The group met about once a week during the 2010-2011 school year and was made up of educators from various departments including Kinesiology, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Spanish. Manning said after a year of exploring literature about effective discussion and sharing ideas with colleagues, she and the members of her COP are now more purposeful  about how they establish classroom climate and conduct activities students perform around discussion.

"We have changed as a group in how we view and plan what has to happen before the actual discussion takes place," Manning said. "It isn't magic; it goes well because of preparation on the part of the educator and on the part of the students."

In addition to the knowledge Manning and the educators involved in her COP have gained, they created a document that features a gathering of what they learned about how to get discussions started, how to build the community educators need in a classroom so a discussion can thrive, and how to troubleshoot when the unexpected happens. The document is chronologically-based and is comprised of questions educators may face in the classroom and will be featured on the CETL website in the near future.

"We have built a resource so we can use it and so we can share that with the community, so I'm really excited about that," Manning said.

Associate Professor of Kinesiology, Lisa Herb, who participated in Manning's COP said she plans to incorporate much of what she learned over the year about facilitating effective discussion into her classes, as well as into an online class she teaches during the summer. Herb also said the opportunity to connect with other educators to discuss best practices was one of her favorite parts of being involved in the group.

"It was great to be able to network and spend some concentrated time with other colleagues and to get a sense of what has worked for them and to hear their ideas," Herb said.

Like Herb, Manning said she feels she has found a new set of friends in her fellow COP participants and she is grateful for the opportunity CETL offers to educators to connect and better themselves and their teaching practices.

"I think we are very fortunate to have support on this campus for the improvement of teaching and learning and that all of us need to take advantage of the opportunities that exist to continue to improve," Manning said. "Whether we are at the beginning or end of our teaching careers, we all have ways we can improve and learn and CETL offers a great opportunity to discover, research, and collaborate on how to make our teaching more effective."

Excellence Motto