Far-reaching and fast-paced transformations in higher education increase demand for continuous staff development and training. Community-based approaches to professional development, especially professional learning communities, can foster professional and institutional development and meet specific requirements on continuing education.
Based on evaluation data of six years and a recent survey on digital teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, this paper discusses a community-based professional development initiative in higher education at a German university and assesses its features and effects. Our findings show an improvement of student-centred teaching skills as well as an intensification of dialogue and empowerment of university teachers. Through continuous occasions for dialogue and long-term cooperation, the initiative enables the development of mutual trust amongst participants and provides ways to transform academic teaching whilst ensuring academic freedom and freedom of teaching. However, successful implementation depends on external support and the necessary infrastructure for cooperation.
Our results suggest that community-based professional developments add value compared to individual formats of staff development, as they improve teachers’ readiness to assume collective responsibility for the quality of teaching and student learning as well as for their own professional development.