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Faculty Learning Groups

Overcoming Student Learning Bottlenecks

Faculty Learning Group - Core Curriculum

Registration is now closed.

Students taking Core Curriculum courses face abrupt changes from course to course in how they are expected to read, think, speak, and write. Each course presents new disciplinary conventions. This variety is inspiring to some students. To others, it is confusing, even daunting.

Duquesne promotes faculty experts teaching in core courses. Experts, by definition, have internalized the conventions of their field, and sometimes they have difficulty decoding their expertise in ways that help students learn deeply.

In this seven month learning group, faculty participants will identify and address the learning bottlenecks that students face in their Core Curriculum courses, including Writing Intensive courses. Participants will engage a systematic process to uncover mental tasks they now take for granted, and thereby help students overcome the learning obstacles that arise repeatedly in their courses.

Faculty learning groups provide an opportunity for small interdisciplinary groups to explore a topic, implement what they learn in their teaching, and sometimes, gather student-learning evidence and present it in peer-reviewed contexts beyond Duquesne University.

Program led by Laurel Willingham-McLain with consultation from Darlene Weaver and James Purdy.


Full-time Duquesne University faculty teaching courses in the Core Curriculum (including Writing Intensive courses). Participants need to have taught the same or similar Core Curriculum course twice in order to be able to identify bottlenecks, and they are likely to teach it again soon.


Overcoming student learning bottlenecks: Decode the critical thinking of your discipline, by Joan Middendorf and Leah Shopkow, 2018, Stylus. (Book is provided)

Participant Commitment:

Each month October 2018 - April 2019, read a book chapter, participate in 75 minute session, and apply the ideas to a core curriculum course you have taught, and will likely be teaching again in the future. The sessions will include hands-on time to revise course materials. We will choose a time where all participants are available. This can be face to face or online.

Professional Development Funding:

Faculty who participate in monthly sessions and submit revised course materials by May 15, 2019 will receive $350 in professional development funding.


Center for Teaching Excellence, Core Curriculum, Retention & Advisement, Writing Center
Please direct questions to Laurel Willingham-McLain, willingham@duq.edu, 412 396 5177