The role of collaborative reflection in a faculty community
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A faculty community is a type of learning community where faculty learning and development is the focus. Previous research suggests that formally structured faculty communities promoted faculty engagement, improved teaching, thwarted career burnout, increased retention of experienced faculty, and fostered organizational change. Researchers have not examined faculty communities embedded in the workplace and the longitudinal effects these communities have on mid-career and senior faculty learning. In this study, I examined how an experienced interprofessional faculty community of medical and biomedical professionals managed the implementation of a novel graduate curriculum in translational sciences. Translational sciences education aims to enhance the collaborations between scientists and clinicians for the advancement of patient treatment and care. I focused on how faculty advanced their individual and collective understanding of the curriculum implementation using collaborative reflection during weekly community interactions. The study began at the start of the curriculum implementation and lasted fifteen months. It was a qualitative, ethnographic case study including three sources of data: naturalistic observation of teaching and faculty meetings, faculty interviews, and community artifacts. Two theoretical frameworks undergirded the design of the study: community of practice and distributed cognition. The results of the study suggest that collaborative reflection in the faculty community promoted faculty learning over time in several areas: teaching and instruction, assessment and evaluation, individual knowledge, student learning, and organizational and leadership skills. Collaborative reflection occurred in response to multiple episodes that occurred during curriculum implementation, but was focused primarily on facets of instruction, which was the dominant work of the community. Collaborative reflection enabled decision-making on instructional content and process, pedagogical content and process, and curricular content. A cyclical process of instructional development emerged in the community including: session planning, implementation, collective teaching observation, and collective instructional evaluation. Attributes of the community that emerged to support collaborative reflection included: shared goals, domain knowledge, and mutual trust. The community provided a shared social context for systematic collaborative reflection and scaffolding in instructional development. The study findings represent a specific set of experiences that may inform a model of instructional development for use with interprofessional faculty communities in academic health centers.