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Chancellor's Learning Scholars help fellow faculty explore ideas

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UNG's Chancellor's Learning Scholars are Dr. Katherine Adams, Dr. Leigh Dillard, Dr. Courtney Ferriter, Dr. Esther Morgan-Ellis and Dr. Linda Purvis. They are leading faculty learning communities to explore teaching ideas.

Five University of North Georgia (UNG) faculty members are serving as Chancellor's Learning Scholars (CLS) through the University System of Georgia (USG) to lead learning communities of fellow UNG faculty to explore teaching strategies.

UNG's Center for Teaching, Learning and Leadership recommended faculty members to be scholars, a professional development opportunity with an 18-month commitment, and Dr. Chaudron Gille, UNG provost, made the selections. Those chosen for the 2020-22 CLS cycle are: Dr. Katherine Adams, assistant professor of education; Dr. Leigh Dillard, associate professor of English; Dr. Courtney Ferriter, assistant professor of English; Dr. Esther Morgan-Ellis, associate professor of music; and Dr. Linda Purvis, assistant professor of biology.

Dillard is in her second year of the program, while the other four are in their first year. The newest selections are part of the third CLS cohort, and about 80 faculty from across the USG are in each cohort.

Each faculty learning community includes between five and 10 participants, with a total of more than 30 UNG faculty from various disciplines involved in the groups led by these scholars.

Adams knows what it's like to pursue a degree while working full time. That is why she intently searches for ways to help graduate students find opportunities for publications and conference presentations by including them in the course curriculum.

The faculty learning community led by Adams, program coordinator and assistant professor for UNG's Doctor of Education in higher education leadership and practice, is exploring that topic.

"As faculty analyze their course content while reflecting on their personal graduate journeys, we hope to share how we could create innovative practices around providing traditional opportunities to nontraditional students and programs," Adams said.

Purvis is leading a faculty learning community in her department about how to adapt hands-on science learning to remote learning during COVID-19. She said part of that process has involved the idea that repetition is vital in online settings to ensure students understand instructions. During an unusual year, Purvis is grateful for the chance to connect with colleagues.

"It still creates that sense of belonging in the department," Purvis said. "It's important now more than ever. I'm really appreciative of that."

Ferriter leads a faculty learning community that focuses on inclusive pedagogy in online and hybrid teaching. Ferriter said her group has honed in on more of a mindset than specific steps toward this goal.

"This is a good opportunity to explore why we do what we do and try to be more intentional about our teaching strategies," Ferriter said.

Morgan-Ellis and her group discuss how to facilitate undergraduate research and creative activities in hybrid and online environments. She appreciates how the faculty learning community helps colleagues examine strategies, motivations and obstacles.

"The main value is getting together with colleagues and talking about teaching," Morgan-Ellis said.

Dillard is leading a group that addresses high-impact teaching practices.

"Our group enjoyed productive, interdisciplinary conversations last year," Dillard said. "And I'm pleased that many of those first-year participants have been willing, despite the challenges of this year, to move those conversations forward."

The USG provides suggested readings for the scholar-led faculty learning communities, though each group can add its own readings. At the end of the year and a half, each scholar will report to the USG with concrete teaching practices members identified and implemented.

"The idea behind the program is that these faculty can reach many more people with these research-based pedagogies because there's a trickle-down effect," said Dr. Rebecca Johnston, associate director of UNG's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership and associate professor of music.

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