The Garden Project: Cultivating Communities of Practice across Penn State

In the Fall 2020 Instructor Needs Survey, you asked for the following:

  • Opportunities to talk about teaching topics with other faculty (suggested topics included graduate classes, team-based learning, active learning, student engagement, and many more)
  • Recognition of challenges with fatigue, burnout, isolation, work-life balance, and similar self-care related topics

We listened. In response, we developed the Garden Project, which seeks to “plant” communities of practice across the Penn State.

We have been amazed by the outpouring of interest that the communities of practice grant program has received. It is evident that Penn State instructors are committed to engaging with each other through these unprecedented times. There are many positive benefits of this, but it also means that collective interest has exceeded our funding source. While we are unable to support you financially, we can continue to support you through our communities of practice program in many other ways. We warmly invite your group to be a part of this garden community.

  • If you are interested in starting a new community of practice, we can provide you with support in the form of resource kits, facilitation, recruitment, recognition...and more. You will also get a dedicated SITE consultant to work with you and your group. To apply please fill out this short interest form.
  • If you have an existing community of practice we can also provide you with support in the form of resource kits, facilitation, recruitment, recognition... and more. You will also get a dedicated SITE consultant to meet the needs of your group. To apply please fill out this short interest form..
  • If you are interested in joining a community of practice, we can help connect you to others. Please simply fill out this form indicating which topics interest you.
  • If you are interested in having your community of practice information added to our directory, please simply fill out this form

For more information, do not hesitate to contact any of the Garden Project team members: Beate Brunow, Laura Cruz, Deena Levy, and Adam Smith.

What is a community of practice?

It is, a fairly small group of people who share practices (like teaching) in common and who get together from time to time to talk (or do something). That’s it.

End goals or target dates are not necessary. The purpose of communities of practice is to build connections with other people, to foster a sense of belonging, and (especially) to learn from each other.

Why be a part of a community of practice now?

We are all facing unprecedented challenges within higher education and around the world. This has made it harder for us to function well as people and as professionals. Fortunately, research shows communities of practice can have positive benefits beyond professional learning, including enhanced well-being, productivity, resilience, and even innovation and creativity.