Session Formats

Following national standards, Center for Faculty Development (CETL) work with faculty is

voluntary + formative + confidential

We use an expanding variety of formats for our events and programs to meet the needs of our participants and reflect the nature of the topic at hand. A key aim of our sessions is to bring people together from across campus to forge greater community. Our events and programs are typically open to all faculty at Seattle University; only if the topic is tailored to a specific audience do we limit participation (e.g. panel for non-tenure-track faculty, Community of Practice for department chairs/program directors with personnel responsibilities).

Event topics are generally chosen based on faculty feedback in our end-of-year survey from the previous year. Occasionally, issues or “hot topics” arise during the year and, where possible, we make alterations to our annual plan to accommodate these new areas for consideration.

What can I expect?

We take a social constructivist approach to our work, meaning that we see knowledge as being (a) constructed by individuals in their own specific way and (b) best constructed through interaction with others. Since that's our view of learning, we strive to model it in our most of our events so that you get to experience it first-hand.

Below are the formats you may encounter as you participate in CETL events. You can also download this summary of CETL session formats [PDF].

Affinity groups

are an opportunity to bring together faculty from across the university who share particular characteristics. Research on affinity groups indicates they enhance participants' agency and optimism, while providing access to beneficial information and support.

Candid conversations

provide a constructive opportunity to discuss more controversial or polemic aspects of higher education (HE). These topics may well relate to institutional issues bubbling under the surface and reflecting a broader national or international development in HE. They typically begin with a very brief introduction to the research on the topic, then the remainder of the time is given over to group discussion and, where appropriate, localized problem-solving.

Communities of practice

are based on the situated learning model developed by Lave and Wenger (1991) and expanded by Wenger (1998), where individuals who play particular roles on campus, but who do not work directly together, gather to discuss current issues in their work, to share practices, and to develop guidelines to help them all fulfill their roles more effectively and enjoyably.

Faculty learning communities

are based on a model developed at Miami University, Ohio (Cox, 2013), in which small groups of faculty (typically no more than 12) come together to discuss a reading over an extended period, to share their thoughts and insights from the reading, and to consider its application in their own contexts. 

Faculty writing groups

are designed to provide small, interdisciplinary groups of faculty (a) camaraderie as they work on their scholarship and also (b) accountability to help them make progress incrementally, rather than leaving their research time until breaks or the summer. Writing groups follow the Action Learning Set process (Brockbank & McGill, 1998; McGill & Beatty, 2001) found to be highly successful in building academic community alongside motivation.


are one- or two-day events with a range of activities and sessions. The Center for Faculty Development has been directing the New Faculty Institute for the university since 2007. We have also run one-day New Chair and Director Institutes in the past.

NCFDD webinars

complement our other activities and are conducted by the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, of which we are an institutional member. NCFDD webinars typically cover areas that CETL is less well-placed to deliver internally.

Panel discussions

allow participants to pose questions to colleagues who fulfill particular roles on campus or in the academy. They are a chance for faculty to benefit from the collective wisdom of on-site experts in order to improve their own academic practice or make important career decisions.

Research practice reboots

are short occasional sessions for faculty to learn about different aspects of the research process that they might be able to incorporate into their own practice.

Research sandboxes

are occasional opportunities for faculty to gather in a cross-disciplinary setting and discuss their research around a particular theme or to hatch plans for collaborative research.

Roundtable discussions

are more exploratory in nature and are gently facilitated with occasional questions to prompt discussion or move the conversation forward.


are multi-session events on a specific theme. Since 2017, CETL has been running three three-part series connected to Ignatian Pedagogy with the Center for Jesuit Education. In 2018, we also began a Faculty Leader Series to replace and expand the potential of the former New Chair and Director Institute.

Thematic learning communities

are based on the Faculty Learning Community model (see above), but without there being a single key text to read.


are our key venue for interdisciplinary discussions around higher education (HE). They weave current HE research with individuals’ practices and experiences, and include activities that enable participants to transfer the topic at hand to their own academic setting.  


Brockbank, A., & McGill, I. (1998). Facilitating reflective learning in higher education. London, UK: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Cox, M. D. (2013). The impact of communities of practice in support of early-career academics. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(1), 18–30.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge UP.

McGill, I., & Beatty, L. (2001). Action learning: A guide for professional, management, and educational development. (Rev. 2nd ed.).  Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York, NY: Cambridge UP.