Friday, February 2, 2018

What's A Community of Practice?

Recently I've been having a lot of discussion about Communities of Practice, (CoPs) in connection with my studies.  There's been an assumption that they're the same as the Communities of Learning set up by the previous government in this country but they're not.  While they do have some similarities, they have some very fundamental - and very important differences, both philosophically and pedagogically.  This post is about reflecting on these and trying to break them down into bullet points.

CoPs are a bit of a passion of mine and were a focus for my thesis for my Masters thesis back in 2015.  I developed an online community of practice for TeachThought and, Along with Beth Leidolf in the US, we created a weekly Twitter chat.  Beth then became a big part of running the online community as part of the leadership. CoPs are all about sharing the learning with everyone having an equal say as you'll see in the bullet point summaries below.

The summaries - these won't be perfect and are just my summaries as I see them at this point, (and I'm always willing to be challenged).  These points come from my research in the case of the CoPs and from research and discussion with many teachers involved in the CoLs in the case of the CoLs.

Communities of Learning

  • New Zealand government initiative
  • Top-down model
  • Large groups of schools, small numbers of facilitators and 'expert teachers'
  • Lead teachers and professional development providers with expertise lead the learning
  • Other teachers learn from the 'experts'
  • Knowledge is grown
  • Data-driven
  • Goal is to improve success for students and raise achievement
  • Ownership of the process is largely by the leadership of the CoLs

Communities of Practice
  • Groups are created through a common interest/need
  • Distributed leadership and ownership model
  • All members are seen to have expertise no matter what their 'level', e.g. a beginning teacher's knowledge is as valuable as someone with a PhD.  
  • The value is in creating knowledge together
  • Knowledge is grown, created 
  • Data is valued and guides the community but doesn't become the overall focus
  • Goal is to raise success for ALL INVOLVED - students AND teachers
  • Everyone involved owns the process and has opportunities to lead

I've blogged about CoPs before and through the years, (see links below), my thinking hasn't changed.  I still believe that they are a way for teachers to be in charge of their own professional learning and for them to create excitement about that learning.  It becomes ongoing, real and relevant - just like we want for our students.  It's not a top-down model controlled by a small group of people and it's always relevant to the individual teacher's own learning needs.  This is how it should be for ALL learners.

Links to Previous Posts on CoPs

Communities of Practice
PLN - aka Powerful Learning Network
Developing a Community of Practice - Improvements and Feedback

Wanting to Develop Your Own Online CoP? 

This presentation may be useful...

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