CELT Teaching and Learning Communities

CELT Teaching and Learning Communities

A Teaching and Learning Community (TLC) is a cross-disciplinary group of faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdocs group of 8 to 12 members engaging in an active, collaborative, yearlong program with frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, development, community building, and opportunities for scholarship of teaching and learning.

There are two types of teaching and learning communities: cohort-based and topic-based.

Cohort-based Learning Community

Cohort-based learning communities address the teaching, learning, and developmental needs of a cohort of faculty or staff who apply to participate in the program. The curriculum of such a yearlong community is shaped by the participants to include a broad range of teaching and learning areas and topics of interest to them. CELT has the following cohort-based learning communities:

Topic-based Learning Community

Each topic-based learning community is yearlong and has a curriculum designed to address a special campus teaching and learning issue, for example, diversity, technology, or service learning. These communities offer membership to and provide opportunities for learning for all faculty and staff, but with a focus on a particular theme.

CELT has the following topic-based learning communities:


  • Those who participate in these Communities report increases in student engagement and student achievement.
  • TLCs stimulate innovation and create experiential, collaborative learning environments.
  • TLCs increase collaboration and make the best use of limited funding.
  • TLCs provide a flexible professional development structure to support learning of any topic.

TLCs Facilitation: Five Things to Know

So you’re thinking about facilitating a Teaching and Learning Community, here are five things to consider.

Community Membership

In addition to learning and reflecting, TLCs benefit by the community of support and collegial relationships developed. Consider:

  • How many members will you have? The recommend size is 8-10; the research on TLCs suggest that less than 6 or more than 12 does not provide optimal community experiences.
  • How will you decide who gets to participate? Remember it is optimum for an TLC to be somewhat multi-disciplinary in nature.
  • Is there an application or any information necessary before a potential member joins the TLC?

Frequency of Meetings

TLCs often meet monthly during the 9-month academic year. Some logistics to consider include:

  • What time of day will you meet?
  • How often will you meet?
  • Where will you meet?
  • Will you meet in person or online, or a mix of both?
  • Will you start and/or end with a “retreat” to orient the TLC members to the topic or to the cohort?
  • Will you pre-determine the meeting plans or decide with the group?

Budget Needs

There are often very little costs associated with TLCs, however, building communities often take work including generating good rapport among participants, learning the goals of participation, and having refreshments!

  • What books, reading materials or other materials might you need?
  • Are you having refreshments at each meeting, or perhaps as bookends at the start and end of the year-long TLC?
  • Are there relevant professional development opportunities, such as a local conference, that would be reasonable enough in terms of cost for the group to attend?

Deliberate Community Building

Community building is a vital aspect of TLCs. Often, participants are anxious to develop new teaching skills and knowledge. Within a TLC, professional staff support in addition to members allows each person the resources, timeframe, and potential partners to successfully learn and reach their goals. Consider:

  • What will do at the first meeting to build community?
  • Will you include any non-meeting activities to build community?
  • Will you have an end-of-the-TLC activity to bring closure to your community?

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a systematic inquiry into student learning which advances the field by making the research and outcomes public.

  • What kinds of teaching, learning and/or institutional projects might come from your FLC?
  • Will any of the group projects need IRB approval?
  • How will you build into your FLC meetings the opportunities for members to discuss their individual projects?
  • Are there opportunities for FLC group deliverables, such as curriculum change, white paper, presentations etc.?
  • What are the expectations/possibilities to present on campus or at a regional/national conference?

CELT Resources

CELT staff regularly co-facilitate TLCs. If you are interested in developing a topic or cohort-based TLC, please email celt@iastate.edu or call 515-294-5357. CELT will help you:

  • Plan the TLC learning objectives.
  • Promote the TLC to the ISU community.
  • Reserve space within Morrill Hall to host the TLC.
  • Work with you to develop potential SoTL research projects.

Teaching Learning Communities information adapted from:

Current Teaching and Learning Communities

CELT Teaching Partners Program

The Teaching Partners Program matches new junior or term faculty members with a senior faculty member who is a successful, experienced teacher from a different discipline.

Team-Based Learning Programs

Team-Based Learning Programs To learn more about Team-Based Learning, visit CELT’s Team-Based Learning (TBL) webpage. Online Team-Based Learning (TBL)