The Power of a Community of Practice – Cultivating Communities of Practice in Education

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Filament.io 0 Flares ×
Instructors Discussing Topic - Ashford University

With some nurturing and care, many groups, teams, or networks of people are able to develop into a strong, cohesive community of practice. According to Wenger et al. (2002), there are some actions organizations or community leaders can take to help establish an emerging community of practice (CoP).

Build a case for membership.
When establishing a CoP, it is important to build a case for why individuals would want to join the community. Communicating the benefits of the community and the value of learning from others can help galvanize interest in potential community members.

Launch the community.
There are several different directions a community can take in launching their community. Some communities that have strong leadership and purpose in place may opt for a dramatic kickoff to the community to engage others in their vision and purpose. Yet other smaller communities who are emerging to solve a specific problem or to explore a topic may begin very quietly.

Initiate community events.
Once the community has been established, organize knowledge-sharing events to engage community members. These events can help generate momentum and energy as the members start to interact regularly and to see the value of learning from each other.

Build connections between core group members.
When a community is first established, it is often tempting to recruit new members right away to grow the community. However, before recruitment efforts begin, it is often beneficial to establish trusting, positive relationships between the core members or leaders of the community.

Find the ideas, insights, and practices that are worth sharing.
One of the greatest benefits early in the development of the community is to begin helping each other solve professional issues and challenges that fall into the domain of the CoP. By focusing on real world challenges and solutions, the community can explore cutting-edge topics, which generates excitement and interest in being part of the community. This interaction can also build relationships and trust among the community members.

Document judiciously.
As the community cultivates ideas and practices, finding effective ways to document the work is important, but measures should be taken to ensure that documentation is manageable for the community managers or leaders. If participation becomes a burden, community members are less likely to engage and find value in the community. Using shared spaces and collaborative tools can contribute to all members participating in documentation of the ideas and knowledge of the community.

Identify opportunities to provide value.
As the community matures and grows, community coordinators should collect anecdotes that exemplify the value of the community to the participants and to the organization. As the community matures and the members have evidence of solving real challenges and issues, it frequently leads to more tangible value to the participants and the organization (Wenger et al., 2002).

The power of a community of practice for educators at any level is dependent on the willingness of the professionals to collaborate through the sharing of information, ideas, and best practices. When a community is nurtured and intentionally cultivated, it can lead to shared learning, as well as a culture of collaborative, collective inquiry within an organization. Shifting the paradigm of learning to a CoP allows for a new form of learning – creating and sharing knowledge – a place to grow effectively. Even with varied levels of participation within a community, all members benefit from the collective knowledge and skills of the community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 2001).

Written by: Dr. Denise Maxwell
Dr. Maxwell earned her EdD in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, an MA in Educational Leadership from University of Northern Colorado, an MA in Education and Educational Psychology from Ball State University, and a BS in Special Education and Elementary Education from Central Oklahoma State University. Her professional experiences range from classroom teacher, special education teacher, professor developer, mentor, administrator, principal, educational consultant, to her current roles as Assistant Professor and Program Chair for BA in Education and Public Policy for Ashford University.

Written by: Dr. Gina Warren
Dr. Warren serves as an academic department chair and program chair for a graduate program in the College of Education at Ashford University. She has worked in higher education since 2006, teaching in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments. Prior to her experience in higher education, she worked in the K-12 public school setting as a special education teacher and instructional coach. Dr. Warren’s areas of expertise are special education, communities of practice, alternative certification, clinical practice in education, professional development, online learning, and teacher leadership and innovation.

Resources:
Barth, R. S. (2001). Learning by heart. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Blanton, M. L. & Stylianou, D. A. (2009). Interpreting a community of practice perspective in discipline-specific professional development in higher education. Innovative Higher Education, 34, 79-92. doi:10.1007/s10755-008-9094-8
DuFour, R. & Marzano, R.J. (2011). Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (2001). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Laxton, R. & Applebee, A. C. (2010). Developing communities of practice around e-learning and project management. Journal of Distance Education, 24(1), 123-142. Retrieved from EBSCOhost database.
Reeves, D. B. (2009). Leading change in your school: How to conquer myths, build commitment, and get results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Saint-Onge, H. & Wallace, D. (2003). Leveraging communities of practice for strategic advantage. Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Schlichte, J., Yssel, N., & Merbler, J. (2005). Pathways to burn out: Case studies in teacher isolation and alienation. Preventing School Failure, 50(1), 35-40.
Schmoker, M. (2006). Results now. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Sergiovanni, T. J. (2004). Collaborative cultures and communities of practice. Principal Leadership (High School Ed.), 5(1), 48-52.
Smith, P. & Rust, C. (2011). The potential of research-based learning for the creation of truly inclusive academic communities of practice. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 48(2), 115-125. doi:10.1080/14703297.2011.564005
Solution Tree. (2011). Solution tree: Rick DuFour on the importance of PLCs [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnWDJFxfAKE&feature=related
Warren, G.M. (2009). Supporting Teach For America Special Educators Through Professional Development: The Journey to a Community of Practice‬. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest (1109147201‬).‬‬
Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Popular Posts

  • Top 7 Reasons Why You Should Pursue Your MBA If you’re a college graduate, returning to school for your Master of Business Administration (MBA) might not appeal to you. After all, you’ve already spent four years on your Bachelor’s degree. W. . . November 24, 2014
  • Best Courses to Become More Marketable Most universities are composed of typical colleges such as the College of Health Care Studies, Business, Education, and Liberal Arts. Within these colleges are various majors a student can choose, b. . . September 17, 2013
  • 5 Tips for Transferring Credits One of the best ways to accelerate your graduation day is to transfer credits. But many students find the transfer process very long and complicated. It doesn’t have to be so scary. Here are five ea. . . November 14, 2013
  • Explore Exciting Jobs in Healthcare You love to help people. You are interested in the science of the human body. And you believe in the value of a healthy lifestyle. If these traits describe you, then you ought to consider a career i. . . March 12, 2014
  • Business School Accreditation — What’s the Difference? When searching for a business school, you may notice that some business programs are accredited by different organizations with acronyms like AACSB, IACBE, and ACBSP. It’s easy to get lost in an alpha. . . May 23, 2014
  • Words of Advice for Graduates One of my favorite times of the year is commencement. I always enjoy seeing students walk across the stage to celebrate their achievement. When students get close to graduation, you can sense their en. . . March 10, 2014
  • 5 Great Education Documentaries The documentary is an underrated genre in the film industry, often described as one for those who are so “crazy” about a topic, they have to make a film about it. However, some of these “crazy” peop. . . July 12, 2013
  • Choose a Relevant Degree Business, English, Law – these are perennial subjects for degree programs, and they’ve stood the test of time. When students enroll in these programs, they already have some idea of what they’ll stu. . . February 5, 2014
  • The Five Toughest Interview Questions Job interviews are nerve wracking for just about anyone, whether you are a seasoned professional or a recent college graduate. The key to calming those nerves is preparation and practice. Prepare for . . . August 30, 2013
  • Advanced Degrees: Which Fields Provide the Highest Paying Jobs? Every spring it’s in the news: colleges are raising tuition. Higher tuition means students will be carrying a larger debt into the workforce, which cuts into their income. Choosing the right field o. . . September 9, 2013
  • Emotional Intelligence Research and Real World Application The definition of emotional intelligence is, “The ability to perceive, integrate, understand and reflectively manage one’s own feelings and other people’s feelings” (Salovey, […]August 26, 2015
  • Diversity Is More Than a Buzzword Having emerged as a central theme for society, business, and higher education, the word ‘diversity’ might invoke a picture of men and women […]July 1, 2015
  • LGBT Pride Month June is National LGBT Pride Month, a time to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. This month, we spoke with Richard […]June 12, 2015
  • National Mental Health Awareness Month May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when we recognize how mental health impacts our families, our communities, and ourselves. While […]May 12, 2015
  • Celebrate Earth Day Ashford University is proud to call San Diego home, and one of the ways that we give back to our community is by […]April 3, 2015
  • Discussing Intimate Partner Violence This month the Promoting Access and Wellness in Students (PAWS) feature is on an issue that has recently garnered national attention, intimate partner […]March 5, 2015
  • Ebola: An epidemiologist’s experience in Sierra Leone Most of us have seen the news and understand the devastation that has come from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But, one […]February 25, 2015
  • Unique Business Leaders When you think of a successful business owner, you might imagine a serious person who dresses professionally every day, but that doesn’t have […]February 12, 2015
  • Black History Month – Promoting Access and Wellness in Students February is Black History Month, and the monthly feature of Promoting Access and Wellness in Students (PAWS) is the video below that features […]February 10, 2015
  • New Year = New You The New Year marks a time of change, a time when we can make a fresh start, a time when we might step […]January 5, 2015
Tags: , , ,

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...