From anxiety to empowerment: A Learning community of university teachers

Jane MacKenzie*, Sheena Bell, Jason Bohan, Andrea Brown, Joanne Burke, Barbara Cogdell, Susan Jamieson, Julie McAdam, Robert McKerlie, Lorna Morrow, Beth Paschke, Paul Rea, Anne Tierney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing numbers of 'teaching-only' staff are being appointed in higher education institutions in the UK. At one research-intensive university, a new category of academic staff was recently introduced: University Teachers, who are required to engage in scholarly activity as part of their conditions of employment. For many this scholarly activity equates to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). In an attempt to support this growing body of staff in their engagement with SoTL, a year-long Learning Community (LC) was formed. This paper outlines the activities of the LC and presents the outcomes of a collaborative project to explore its members' experiences. We describe the developmental process of LC membership and consider the parallels between our findings and theories of social capital and transformative learning. We conclude with a consideration of how LCs might be used as an engaging form of academic staff development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
To support UTs’ engagement with SoTL, a Learning Community (LC) was set up. The LC was entirely funded through a UoG Learning and Teaching Development Fund grant. The LC was based on the model of Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) which have existed for some time within HE, particularly in the USA. The evidence from more than 25 years of the FLC ‘movement’ suggests that FLC members are tenured earlier (Cox 2004) and believe that their membership has a positive impact on their students’ learning (Cox 2007). FLCs are typically made up of about 12 individuals who, for approximately a year, engage in an in-depth consideration of an aspect of learning and teaching or professional development (Cox 2007). The authors believe the Glasgow LC was the first of its kind in the UK.

Funding Information:
The authors thank the University of Glasgow’s Learning and Teaching Development Fund for financial support. The authors would like to thank Dr. Jane Pritchard for facilitating the group interviews, Dr. Claire Ferguson for advice on analysing quantitative data, Dr. Mary McCulloch and Dr. Cathy Bovill for comments and advice on the manuscript and Louise Sheridan for discussions regarding community development models.


  • Learning Community
  • Social capital
  • The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
  • Transformative learning


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