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Communities of Practice

Being a teacher means, most of the time, belonging to a number of communities of practice (CoP): as a member of a Department, a Faculty, a House or Whanau, a group working on a particular area of interest or project. I am not the exception. I belong to a number of CoP. As a member of the teaching staff at my school, as a language teacher, as a teacher of Spanish, as a teacher inquiring on using electronic resourcing in the classroom, etc. However, the one that I am most interested on right now is my community as a member of the e-learning committee.

I chose to reflect on this CoP because we came together as a group not out of a hierarchical need of functionality (like a Department or a Faculty) but understanding our interaction as social learning: bringing our own personal experience in order to negotiate a social competence in context.
Wenger (2000) defines a CoP by the presence of three essential attributes: joint enterprise, mutuality and shared repertoire (also referred to as the domain, the community and the practice, respectively). Our joint enterprise emerges from our shared interest on developing a framework for the implementation of e-learning across the school. Although we accept that none of the members is an expert on the matter, we are prepared to learn from each other. This acceptance enables a mutuality in which each member is trusted as a partner. We recognise our mutual ability to contribute to this communal enterprise. We are aware of the richness of the community and interact comfortably in our ever-changing roles. However, this mutuality is not just a question of interests. Our intent is to develop a shared practice, which would enable our school to enhance practice through the producing and sharing of documents, guidelines and expertise on a number of areas related to e-learning.

We meet fortnightly for an hour and discuss different projects related to the progression of e-learning in the school, from the need for a school app, a new LMS to teachers PD. These discussions often made evident our own boundaries around certain areas. Different members will then inquiry/interact with experts/participate in PD and come back to the community to share that newly acquired knowledge. This way, we continuously build up our knowledge-base and our understanding of e-learning processes and best practice. We then try to produce guidelines applicable to the whole school, such as rolling out Google Team Drive, implementing a school app, setting and delivering the Digital Citizenship programme, etc.


Etienne Wenger - Community of practice from Medieseksjonen on Vimeo.


I am proud of being a member of this team. By no means I believe I have all the necessary answers, but neither do the rest. My sense of contentedness with my CoP is based on my sense of belonging to it and to what it represents. It involves different aspects: engagement, imagination and alignment.
We are (and therefore I am) engaged in doing things together, producing artifacts but also helping each other to navigate contexts that sometimes are first-encounters. We also have to imagine ourselves (as a CoP and as a school) in order to establish a path of action and a way to represent our intent, which in term must be aligned with other process embedded in the “bigger picture” and sometimes in the “smaller picture”, where negotiation, prioritisation and coordination of different perspectives are needed.

In this phenomenal process, each member has its own opportunity to lead and to follow (although negotiation around hierarchical roles is always needed). My MindLab reading and the constant reflection on my practice that this has brought have allowed me to made many interesting contributions. However, maybe the main one is just to stay there, facing the storm, learning the skills, and trying to find the way. 

Based on: Wenger, E.(2000).Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246

Comments

  1. I like the future focus of your CoP, because I believe this is an area where we should all support each other the most. It is also the area that reciprocity is at its best, when 'everybody brings something to the table'.

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    Replies
    1. Understanding learning as a social process underpins the very existence of a CoL. As Wenger argues in his article, we need to align our experience to this socially constructed competence.
      I particularly like his notion of Imagination (as a mode of belonging). That capacity of constructing a model of ourselves as a community in order to understand our context and explore possibilities. One of the most fascinating and challenging tasks for this CoL has been being able to generate that mental representation of our own CoL and our wider communities as present and future to define how we work and what we work for.

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  2. "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." Confucius

    By completing this course you have constructed this new CoP. It works for you now but what will happen when the "need" to meet disappears? How will you continue to challenge yourself, to continue to focus your growth?

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