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Home > Careers > Office Of Professional Development > Peer Groups > Apply to Become A Peer Group

New Peer Group Application Information

Background Information: A peer group is an association of 12 or more full-time or part-time personnel associated with teaching and learning. Within the VCCS there are peer, work, and governance groups. The definitions below will clarify which groups are able to apply for peer group status.

  • Peer groups are specifically targeted to teaching and learning and all that connotes – pedagogy, discipline content and updates and curricula. A peer group can be a discipline-related group, such as English or physics. It can also be a group critical to teaching and learning but not discipline-based. It is focused on individuals’ improving their job performance and effectiveness in the realm of teaching and learning. There are two tiers of peer groups which are explained in the next section.
  • Work groups focus on specific topics important to the support of teaching and learning but not directly related to it. The focus is on improving the on-going, daily effectiveness of the college’s business practices. This includes groups such as the Admissions and Records Workgroup and the Financial Aid Workgroup.
  • Governance groups concern themselves with policy and processes that support teaching and learning but are, again, not directly related to it. Governance groups include CODD (Council of Deans and Directors), ASAC (Academic and Student Affairs Council) and ACOP (Advisory Council of Presidents).  

The objective of the peer group meeting is to encourage intra/interdisciplinary collaboration, creativity, problem solving, planning, forecasting, learning and networking in the Virginia Community College System.  Faculty meet to discuss substantive issues related to discipline updates, curriculum revision, integration of technology and instructional innovations. A bi-yearly schedule to serve peer groups on a rotating basis will be developed based upon tier status and available resources for the year:

  • Tier #1 groups are comprised primarily of teaching faculty and receive 70 percent of available funding for peer groups.
  • Tier #2 groups are comprised of personnel not classified as teaching faculty yet associated with student success. They receive 25 percent of available funding.
  • Five percent of available funding is marked for use at the discretion of the Office of Professional Development (OPD).

Attendees of regular technology training updates and workgroup and governance group meetings not directly related to teaching and learning, although important, are not intended audiences.

Each peer group face-to-face meeting will be based on tier determination and availability of resources. Because professional development is a three-legged stool supported by the individual, the college, and the System, colleges are encouraged to match System Office support when possible. This is particularly important to partially-funded, face-to-face meetings.

Peer group meetings are organized by a planning committee comprised of individuals familiar with/appointed by those in the field. A peer group planning committee needs to be representative of the discipline as a whole. A peer group may be asked to meet with other groups, but will retain its own programming and can share some joint programming if it wishes. In this case, the program would be akin to a “track” in a larger “mega-group” meeting.

Peer groups have other ways to connect and work throughout the year. These include: 1) a Blackboard site (to be managed by the group), 2) using Elluminate, Breeze, Google Apps, or other collaborative virtual meeting tools, or 3) other ways to be determined.


Peer Group Criteria

Applicants will apply online to become a peer group within the VCCS. Approvals last for six years, at which point the peer group will reapply. Criteria are as follows:

  1. The purpose of the proposed peer group is directly related to discipline content, teaching pedagogy and/or career advancement in the field.
  2. The peer group will serve a significant number of VCCS community colleges or will support important existing or emerging academic programs that might not demonstrate high numbers of students, but are important to the VCCS.
  3. The peer group will serve a significant number of VCCS full-time or part-time personnel associated with teaching and learning or will support personnel involved in important existing or emerging academic programs that might not demonstrate high numbers, but are important to the VCCS.
  4. The peer group clearly states its outcomes.
  5. The stated desired outcomes of the peer group’s activities align with the mission and strategic directions of the VCCS as well as the mission of the Office of Professional Development (OPD) Peer Group Program.
  6. The desired outcomes are evaluated in a robust manner that looks at the four process levels of professional development evaluation: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. (Fitzpatrick, Sanders, and Worthen (2004) Program evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines. New York: Longman).
  7. The peer group adds value to the system and its constituents.
  8. The peer group will organize itself for sustainability and be able to describe those processes.


Peer Group Application Process

  1. Volunteers for the Peer Group Planning Group submit online application.
  2. The Office of Professional Development (OPD) establishes a Blackboard group to help each planning group carry out their work. First applicants will be designated as course builders (along with the Director of Professional Development) and will take over the management of the group. The Office of Professional Development will enroll applicants in the group as they come in through the PD website.
  3. The planning group submits a completed online application.
  4. The application will then be submitted to the Conference Subcommittee of the VCCS Professional Development Committee (PDC), which will review it.
  5. After review and discussion, the Conference Subcommittee will bring its recommendation to the Professional Development Committee, who, as a group, will approve or deny the application. The PDC will also rank the applicants within the two tiers. Resources for peer groups will be allocated based upon the amount available in the OPD budget.
  6. Selected peer groups will then be notified by the OPD. Peer group approval meetings will take place twice a year for implementation the next semester (if funding is available) or the next fiscal year.
  7. Peer group applicants denied peer group status may revise and resubmit their application one additional time. They will be given the reasons for the initial denial of the application and ranking within the tier.