Initial Publication Date: July 9, 2020

Faculty Discussion Series

Faculty discussion series are a key element of the SAGE 2YC faculty professional development program. These have included book clubs, journal clubs, and implementation groups (sometimes called "teaching circles"). Each discussion series has focused on a topic directly related to at least one of the three strands of the SAGE 2YC project: supporting the academic success of all students, broadening participation in the geosciences and STEM, and facilitating students' pathways to geoscience / STEM careers. These discussions support faculty members in exploring evidence-based teaching practices and in reflecting on how they can implement those practices.


The overarching goal of our discussion series is to spark changes in practices through deep engagement with evidence-based practices for teaching and learning. The specific goals of each of the SAGE 2YC faculty discussion series have varied with the specific topic addressed. However, the goals generally include some or all of the following: Participants will

  • read some of the research literature on the topic;
  • reflect on how the reading relates to their current teaching practices;
  • develop plans to implement evidence-based practices in their classrooms / departments / programs;
  • offer each other feedback on those implementation plans;
  • report back to the group about what they implemented and how it went.

Structure and format

Each of our discussion series is composed of a series of meetings, as the name implies, with "homework" preceding each of the meetings (including the first meeting of the series). These pre-meeting assignments always involve more than just completing a reading assignment. For example, participants might be asked to

  • submit a list of possible discussion questions for the upcoming discussion session
  • describe what parts of the reading assignment resonate, or do not resonate, with their own experiences
  • share example materials from one of their courses, which will be analyzed during the discussion session
  • peer review course materials from one or two other participants
  • share their action plan for implementing what they are learning
  • peer review one or more action plans

This combination of synchronous meetings and asynchronous work before the meetings makes for rich discussions in the synchronous meetings. Everyone "arrives" at the meetings prepared and primed for discussion.

Book clubs and journal clubs

Book clubs and journal clubs both combine learning about a topic with implementing new strategies. Book clubs focus on a single book, while journal clubs typically read primary journal articles, but may also include other sources of information, such as TED talks or websites. See examples below.

Implementation groups

Implementation groups shift the focus to implementing new strategies, and are what we do when participants are already familiar with the research on a particular topic. For example, we ran an implementation group on "Blooming" Your Courses following a workshop session that described the benefits of using Bloom's taxonomy in course design. See more examples below.


Most of our discussion series consist of 3 synchronous meetings, with anywhere from one to three weeks between meetings. The schedule is typically a function of what will work for the discussion leader and what makes sense for the asynchronous assignments. The number of meetings is dependent on the depth and breadth of material being explored. Our synchronous meetings are all virtual, because our participants are spread out across the US. Although discussion series like these are often organized and run by campus Teaching and Learning Centers, interested faculty can also organize discussion series with their peers on topics of mutual interest.


Effective faculty professional development can take many forms. Some of the affordances of faculty discussion groups include flexibility of scheduling, flexibility of scale, the opportunity to design for faculty interests, the relative ease of organizing, and the low to minimal costs. Indeed, this last factor makes faculty discussion groups particularly accessible to faculty and instructors of all ranks, including adjunct faculty. Participants do not need to have funding to attend a discussion series; at most, they need only buy (or borrow) a book and carve out the time to do the (extra, unpaid and usually un-rewarded) work.


We have run faculty discussion series in three general categories: book clubs, journal clubs, and implementation groups. Book clubs and journal clubs include a component of reading, either in the primary research literature or in books that are built on that primary literature base. All three types of groups include a component of implementation: that is, faculty participants are asked to choose a strategy or strategies to implement and make a plan for that implementation. Click on the links below to read a detailed description of that particular series.

  • Implementation groups:
    • Scientist Spotlights: Choosing or developing scientist spotlight assignments to incorporate into your course(s). These assignments focus on scientists who are from groups that have been historically underrepresented in STEM and whose work is directly related to the course topics.
    • Active Learning: Choosing or developing active learning strategies and activities to implement
    • "Blooming" Your Courses: Aligning your course goals, assignments, and assessments of student learning using the lens of Bloom's taxonomy for the cognitive domain
    • Teaching Online: Sharing what works best in your online or hybrid courses and brainstorming solutions to challenges
  • Journal clubs
  • Book clubs
    • Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude Steele
    • Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, by James Lang
    • Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation, by Saundra McGuire