The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Stonehill College is a physical and virtual hub promoting collaboration and innovation in teaching excellence. As articulated in its mission statement, the CETL was “Designed to build upon existing expertise at the College” by cultivating “collaborative relationships and campus-wide dialogue”. To advance this goal, the CETL is offering Teaching Circle Planning and Implementation Grants.

What is a teaching circle?

Pat Hutchings, in her seminal work Making Teaching Community Property (1996), defines a teaching circle (TC) as "a small group of faculty members… [who] make a commitment to work together over a period of at least a semester … to address questions and concerns about the particulars of their teaching and their students’ learning" (p. 7). TCs make the hard work of improving our teaching "public" (Cox, 2001, p. 7) as part of a community of like-minded individuals. It is through this "community building” (Cox, 2001) that we can address the “pedagogical solitude” (Shulman, 1993, p. 6) experienced by many members of the academy while improving our collective teaching practices.

Since their introduction twenty-five years ago, the concept of the TC has been widely adopted and adapted. Despite decades of evolution a few characteristics are still core to the approach: TCs involve commitment on the part of its members, last at least one term, and actively address teaching challenges shared by their participants. In alignment with these characteristics and the Center’s goal of building upon “existing expertise at the College” while providing opportunities for faculty to further develop their pedagogical skills, TCs at Stonehill College build upon prior definitions by emphasizing that the topics for TCs are not driven by the Center or its advisory board (CETL PAC), but instead are identified, proposed, and facilitated by faculty members

What topics are “right” for a Teaching Circle?

There is no “right” topic for a TC. Just about any topic can be appropriate. The only requirements are that the topic be related to improving teaching and learning and applicable to an interdisciplinary group of faculty. For instance, TC topics might focus on relatively narrow topics, for example active learning strategies, building community in the classroom, using case-study teaching techniques, or sharing strategies to encourage small or whole class discussion. Or, the TC might focus on a broader topic, for example reading and writing as complementary processes, leveraging technology gains made during the pandemic, or rethinking assessment (ungrading). Please note, proposals for TCs that involve inclusive teaching practices, including Universal Design for Learning, are especially encouraged.

Teaching Circle Planning and Implementation Grants

Teaching Circle Planning and Implementation Grants (TCP&I Grants) have two phases, a planning phase and an implementation phase. Successful applicants will receive a $1,000 stipend upon completion of each phase ($2,000 total). Applicants may apply to complete their “planning” as part of either the summer or fall planning cohorts*.

Any faculty member can apply for a TCP&I Grant. You do not need to be an expert in the field or topic you propose to explore. Instead, you only need to have the desire to take on a leadership role planning and facilitating a TC and a desire to work collaboratively to improve your practice. Given this, any faculty member, regardless of where you are in your career trajectory, is encouraged to apply.

Application process. Applications are due by noon on the Friday after March break. Applications will be submitted electronically using the following link.

Selection Criteria

Completed applications will be reviewed and scored by members of the Teaching Circle Planning and Implementation Grant Selection Committee using the following criteria: 

  1. Intellectual merit
  2. Broader impact
  3. Feasibility of the TC
  4. Assessment plan
  5. Overall quality of the application

Responsibilities – TC facilitators

  1. Successful applicants (TC facilitators) are required to participate in either the summer or fall planning cohorts, with implementation occurring the following semester. It is anticipated that planning cohorts will meet as a group with the CETL FD at least three times throughout the planning phase. Meetings may be in person or via zoom.
  2. Upon completion of the planning phase, participants will (1) electronically submit a finalized “TC plan of action” using the following link and (2) be asked to provide written feedback to the Center’s advisory board (CETL PAC) concerning the effectiveness of the planning phase of the Teaching Circle Planning Grants.

Upon completion of these responsibilities TC facilitators will receive their planning grant stipend. 

In addition to facilitating their TC as outlined in “TC finalized action plan”, TC facilitators are asked to

  1. offer individual consultations on their area of interest to faculty unable to commit to a semester long TC.
  2. serve as members of the Teaching Circle Planning and Implementation Grant Selection Committee the academic year they facilitate their TCs.
  3. collect and analyze data as outlined in their assessment plan
  4. provide written feedback to the Center’s advisory board (CETL PAC) concerning the effectiveness of the implementation phase of the Teaching Circle Planning Grants.
  5. create and maintain a repository of related links, literature, etc. on the CETL website or CETL Team site (if appropriate).
  6. submit a finalized “TC grant completion report”.

Upon completion of these responsibilities TC facilitators will receive their implementation grant stipend

Repeating TCs 

Depending upon faculty interest, TC facilitators may request, or be asked to consider, offering their TC more than once. If this occurs, TC facilitators will receive an addition $500 implementation grant stipend upon completion of the subsequent semester of the TC and its associated finalized written project evaluation.


*If applicants participate in the summer planning cohort, they will implement their TC throughout the fall semester. If applicants participate in the fall planning cohort, they will implement their TC throughout the spring semester.