Community‑based learning

Ferris faculty and staff improve classroom communities

Classroom communities can play a huge factor in a student’s ability to learn and feel confident in class. However, they are not always formed in many of our classes on campus.

Ferris instructional designer in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning Julie Rowan is conducting a series of workshops for faculty and staff members to teach them how to create and maintain a community in the classroom.

“We have about a dozen participants and this will be a faculty learning community that meets six times over the course of this semester,”  Rowan said. “The goal of the learning community is for faculty members and sometimes staff members, to come together and learn about a particular topic or idea that will be useful for them in their classes and as they work with students.”

While Rowan facilitates the learning community, she allows her participants to direct the topics discussed in order to better suit their needs.

“How do we take these ideas and use them in the classroom?” Rowan said. “They may have the opportunity to visit each other’s classrooms and kind of observe as we’re talking about different dynamics and elements of community, and then talk to each other about that, which would deepen the exchange of ideas.”

Ferris professor of biology Dr. Kemi Fadayomi is planning on being an active participant in the class.

“I’m very much interested in building communities because already there’s research out there to show that, when you have a community of learners, learning will take place,” Fadayomi said.

Both women agree that inclusion is essential to building a deep community in the classroom and is something that every classroom should strive for.

“Inclusion—making students feel comfortable, ensuring that they have some input and being able to ask questions—those are all other elements of community and respecting diverse perspectives,” Rowan said.

Fadayomi and Rowan discussed the gravitational pull students unconsciously participate in by grouping themselves with people in the class that they already know.

“In my experience, I’ve had international students who don’t feel like they’re part of the classroom. When they put themselves in groups, they can’t find a group to join. They don’t feel welcome,” Fadayomi said. “I really want to stretch these ideas enough to make my classroom inclusive so that all students can see themselves as part of the classroom, so I’m not leaving any student behind.”

It is the goal of these women and other participants in the class, to address this issue and other factors that hinder a classroom community over the next few weeks so that all students can learn better and have more resources available to them.