Communities of Practice [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.stephendale.com/
My Personal Inquiry Question: Do Communities of Practice enhance faculty development?  I am always looking for ways to best help faculty integrate technology into their teaching practice and am intrigued by the promise of establishing a community of practice (CoP). What are communities of practice and why do they offer promise?  Social learning theorist Etienne Wenger coined the term “community of practice” as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. (Wenger, 1998) According to Wenger, an increasing number of educational organizations are focusing on communities of practice as a key to improving their performance. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with these groups that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger, 1991). CoPs can exist online, such as within Twitter Chats and or in person, such as Colgate’s Center for Learning, Teaching and Research, where I intend to promote a CoP. Through this project I want to find out how effective communities of practice are for faculty development and identify the factors that influence their effectiveness. I am investigating this concept and want to see how it could fit into the faculty development work I already do. I am targeting this summer to organize and put out a call for interested faculty to join a CoP based on using Google Classroom as an alternative to Moodle.


EDT 520’s Central Question: For this personal inquiry project I am looking at the central course question: How might we use the latest research, personal experiences, and a professional network to collaborate and model a growth mindset?  I’ve always been a risk-taker and love thinking outside-the-box! People with a growth mindset according to

Growth Mindset [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bigchange.org
Dweck, challenge themselves; they aren’t afraid of making mistakes, are known to go-for-it. Conversely, people with fixed mindsets are afraid of making

mistakes, afraid of moving out of their comfort zones. Fixed mindset people are preoccupied with outcomes, the final grade or successful work project for instance, over the process and experience. (Dweck, 2006).  I can describe many Colgate faculty as having a fixed mindset so my challenge will be to entice them to join a community of practice to enhance their growth. Once the initial fear and vulnerability  are overcome, the benefits of engaging with others in a group that offers this kind of growth, will hopefully, be very positive.


Two Course Outcomes: 
3.) Plan for educational experience of adult learners that demonstrates the ability to use educational technology, sound educational philosophy and plan for local context.
Because I am planning a CoP for Colgate faculty and will launch it in conjunction with a workshop about Google Classroom, this outcome fits really well.  Because they are adult learners I will let some of the workshop be self guided and participatory. The workshop will offer them a hands-on experience setting up their Classroom, adding content and using all its features.  When they leave the session they will be ready to hit the ground running and teach their first section using Google Classroom. I hope to be able to give them a solid foundation with this tool that aligns with sound educational philosophy on delivering instruction online.  Offering faculty and alternative to Moodle is a big deal because we have never promoted anything else. My experience using Google Classroom has been so positive that I know many faculty will like it and find it easier to use than Moodle.


7.) to read and synthesize literature and research on communities of practice to support personal experiences and deepen conceptual knowledge. There is a lot of research and good information out there now on why CoP’s are effective and how to set them up. I have no personal experience doing this but based on my research and resources available I feel confident that it will be a success.


Professional Growth/Goals: Finding an answer to this central question will allow for my growth as a faculty developer for several reasons. First is my desire to create an atmosphere that encourages faculty to take ownership of their professional development to improve teaching skills and technology integration. I have never set one up at Colgate so this will be uncharted territory. In order to learn more, I have read through many articles describing different types of CoP’s and their benefits. From my readings I believe they will make a difference through application of knowledge, learning new tools and building social relationships.


Work Log

Date Time Description
3/27/17 1 hrs Read the description of the personal inquiry project and its requirements. Brainstormed some ideas on what to do.
 3/28 4 hrs Decided on Communities of Practice, created a new WordPress page for this project and started researching information about my topic.
3/30/17 2 hrs  Researched topic online
3/31/17 3 hrs  Met with college librarian for help in doing research and gain access to scholarly database.
4/1/17 1 hr  Searched for some YouTube videos that gave examples of CoP.
4/2/17 4 hrs  Read articles, began writing the assignment and searched for digital resources
4/3/17 1 hrs  Met with my director and formulated a plan for me to start a CoP at Colgate.
4/5/17 2 hrs  Assignment writing
4/6/17 1 hrs  Started designing a poster to promote the CoP
4/12/17 3 hrs  Assignment writing, scholarly article summaries
4/13/17 3 hrs  Finishing project and final touches on WP site
Total 25 hrs

Evidence of Work:

I don’t have a lot to show here other than the depth of understanding I now have about Communities of Practice. There are no certifications or badges for the time I have put into learning about this topic. I do have plans to facilitate the beginnings of a CoP about Google Classroom. I have created a poster (below) to promote it to our faculty and will send out the usual emails to invite them to come. I will launch it by holding a workshop on Google Classroom. Those in attendance will be invited to join the CoP.

My Plan of Action to form the CoP:

  • Conduct a needs assessment through informal discussions, survey, and/or a focus group.
  • Define the benefits of the CoP for faculty
  • Create a mission and vision statement
  • Promote the major topic (Google Classroom) for CoP exploration
  • Create an estimate of the cost for the CoP’s technology support from IT
  • Recruitment of a core team of individuals

 

 


Four Best Resources:

Screenshot of article. Thinking together: What makes Communities of Practice work? August 25, 2017

In the article, “Thinking together: What makes Communities of Practice work?,” the authors describe the concept of Communities of Practice by explaining the learning processes happening at the heart of CoP’s. They provide perspective on the concepts of knowledge-knowing and knowledge-sharing and how learning involves investment of identity and the social formation of a person. Reading this article helped me understand the scope of Communities of Practice and gave me insight into how to make a Colgate faculty CoP successful. The authors offer data from a study done by the UK National Health Service where the process of ‘thinking together’ is conceptualized as a key part of Communities of Practice where people mutually guide each other through their understandings of the same problems in their area of mutual interest. The collaborative learning process of ‘thinking together’, they argue, is what brings Communities of Practice to life.

Pyrko, I., Dörfler, V., & Eden, C. (2017). Thinking together: What makes Communities of Practice work? Human Relations,70(4), 389-409. doi:10.1177/0018726716661040


Screenshot of book. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge Univ Press.

According to Wenger, the old traditional way of thinking about learning theory comes from the assumption that it is something with a beginning and a end and has to be taught by somebody in an isolated teaching environment. (Wenger, 1998). Community of practice is a more modern way of thinking about learning theory, which emphasizes learning as a social process, with the majority of our learning occurring through the experience of living our daily life. Jean Lave along with Wenger proposed this theory and called it the model of “situated learning.” (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Communities of practice can be anywhere and everywhere—at work, school, home or in any hobbies/interests. At any given time, all of us, are involved in a number of them. We are the core members of some of these groups, and on the outskirts of others.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.


[http://www.flickr.com/photos/sonson/422595428/] and reproduced under a CC 2.0 Licence.
There are three important pieces that make up a community of practice:

  •  Domain: A shared domain of interest. Members have a commitment to the domain and know-how of the subject.
  • Community: Shared interest encourages members to engage in activities that support each other and share information. Community forms when members interact and learn together and from each other.
  • Practice:  CoP’s require a lot of practice, so time and sustained interaction are key.

Lave J, Wenger E (1991). Legitimate Peripheral Participation in Communities of Practice. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.


Screenshot of website. http://odnetwork.site-ym.com/forums/Default.aspx

The Organization Development Network offers an online “Community Chat” that allows for academic professionals to join up with like minded individuals and discuss topics relevant to them. I observed one of these chats:  Teaching in Multiple Modalities  – The increased popularity of MOOCs and self-paced, short-term credentials offered online by recognizable educational institutions and professional associations is an invitation for us to explore the feasibility of offering an education or credentials in OD using alternative modalities including hybrid, online, and competency-based.  Share your thoughts regarding the question :  In general, what considerations must be taken into account when designing courses for modalities outside of the traditional brick and mortar classroom? 

Example of a “Community of Practice” in Action

The facebook developer garage program. (2009). Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2p71IEs


Next Steps: 

I am planning on launching a Community of Practice this summer for Colgate faculty who want to explore Google Classroom as an alternative to our Moodle LMS. Through this project I have gained a much better understanding of a CoP and how to go about starting this group. I realize that like my vegetable garden, CoP’s are dynamic social structures that require “cultivation” so that they can emerge and grow. Through a series of steps, I hope to design a community environment, formalization a community, and plan activities to help grow and sustain the community. But ultimately, the members of the community will define and sustain it over time. I will need to back away and let the members take over.


References

Cataldo, C. G. (2009). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge,  Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Dweck, Carol S. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House. 

Pyrko, I., Dörfler, V., & Eden, C. (2017). Thinking together: What makes Communities of Practice work? Human Relations,70(4), 389-409. doi:10.1177/0018726716661040.

Steinert, Y. (2013). Learning from Experience: From Workplace Learning to Communities of  Practice. Faculty Development in the Health Professions, 141-158. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-7612-  8_7

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, U.K.:        Cambridge University Press.

Wenger E., Lave J. (1991). Legitimate Peripheral Participation in Communities of Practice. Situated    Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, E., Trayner, B., and de Laat, M. (2011) Promoting and assessing value creation in  communities and networks: a conceptual framework. Rapport 18, Ruud de Moor Centrum,  Open University of the Netherlands.