Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Communities of Practice

What is a Community of Practice?

The concept of Communities of Practice as defined by Etienne Wenger has long been an area of interest for me and I completed my final Masters thesis around these and the power they can have to improve our teaching practice.  The link below is to my final research report.

Communities of Practice and the Potential to Change Teacher Professional Learning Master of Teaching research, 2014/15

The following was a presentation created in 2014 to share what I had learned about how to develop an 'effective' community of practice, (see also Wenger, 1998).


Purpose and Function of my Practice and how it Meets the Needs of the Community

The purpose and function of my practice for the past year or so has been to meet the needs of my Year 6-8 students and the small rural community in which I learn and teach.  My class was mostly made up of an equal number of Intermediate-aged students who have particular needs as they move into adolescence and need to be supported as they prepare for the next stage of their learning journey - College or Secondary School.  There is also a need to support and reassure parents, particularly those for whom this is their first child at this level.  Many I've spoken to are like me and have not had the best experiences at Secondary so they already have a preconceived idea of what school is like in relation to their own experiences; positive or otherwise.

Reassuring parents - and students - is all about providing connections and working in a partnership for each individual child and his/her individual learning needs.  Connections are forged through class and individual blogs, communication with parents: face-to-face or via email, notes home etc or even a quick phone call.  This is not just when there are concerns.  It is important to connect when great things are happening too.  Maybe it's even more important.  It's all about relationships and connections.

The goal is always to help students become confident and connected learners who are not afraid to fail; who see this as a chance for deeper learning and also as an exciting personal challenge rather than as a stumbling block.  It's about finding out what makes each individual student 'tick', what their passions are and working from there - you need to know who they are as people, not just as 'one of the students' - if you are going to connect and engage with them and provide the best learning opportunities for them.

Now that I am no longer at school and moving into studying for my Doctor of Education, the community I serve will change.  My research, at this stage, is around improving writing for our students - finding ways to motivate and engage them and raise achievement levels at the same time. This will be another blog post.

Challenges Faced in my Practice and How a Community of Practice (CoP) can Help Address Them

As I've written extensively about how CoPs can address the needs of teachers in the current environment in my research I won't repeat this in this section but will summarise what I've learned to date (with still a lot of learning to come).

CoPs provide a way to connect with others on a level playing field where everyone can learn with and from each other.  Everyone's level / depth of knowledge is valued and appreciated.  In turn, this sharing of practice and knowledge has the benefit and goal, if you like, of creating new shared knowledge or practice.  It provides a platform for genuine reflection / reflective practice but only if it is set up and organised well from the beginning.  The criteria for an effective CoP is set out in the presentation (Slideshare) above).

Changes in our Profession and How a Community of Practice Can Address the Changes

Currently we are experiencing many changes in the profession with a lot of pressure placed on teachers to 'lift the tail' in terms of our students who are not meeting the National Standards in the core curriculum areas of Reading, Writing and Maths.   My thinking around these will be detailed in a later post.  For the current assignment I will focus on a new initiative which seems, at first glance, to be built around the concept of Communities of Practice (the Communities of Learning initiative).  Delving further into what these Communities of Learning are and the expectations for them possibly raises more questions than answers for me at this stage.

Investigating in Educational Success and Communities of Learning

My first reaction on hearing that these communities were being developed was a very positive one and I'm still keeping an open mind so I've organised my thinking, at this stage into a PMI which looks at the positives to date, any negatives I can see and the interesting questions that have popped up as I've researched and read.
I am looking forward to revisiting this post in the future as the communities develop and grow.  I would also love to read the views of others around the CoLs.

Communities of Learning PMI


Hughes, J. (2014) Pathways to collaboration: developing an online community of practice. Retrieved from

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning as a social system, Systems Thinker, Retrieved April 2013 from

No comments:

Post a Comment