What is a Community of Practice
Wegner (2000) defines communities of practice as ones in which members "...share cultural practices reflecting their collective learning"(p229). He also goes on to explain how the members of each community define the specific competencies required of community members and how these are comprised of three elements: joint enterprise, mutuality and a shared repertoire of resources (Wegner, 2000). I will come back to these later in this post.
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Identifying My Community of Practice
The communities of practice I belong to include: global teachers; New Zealand teachers; a member of staff at my school; a member of the senior leadership team at my school; lead learner in my classroom community; an active and long term member of global and local networks of Twitter educators. There are others as well, but for the purposes of this reflection I have decided to explore my school environment as a community of practice.
The Three Elements
Joint Enterprise: Wegner (2000) talks about the importance of learning as a community being the focus, and highlights the need for effective communities to consider both the gaps in knowledge as well as new possibilities. In our school we have taken on board a competencies based curriculum - facilitated by Mark Treadwell, which is quite cutting edge as we are one of only a handful of New Zealand schools to implement this particular iteration. This has meant that all of us, from the principal right through to our first year PRT (Provisionally Registered Teacher), have been involved in inquiring into our practice, establishing shared understandings, building upon our prior knowledge and best practice, and establishing the way forward for our school.
Mutuality: In order to build our community and help us move forward, we have a number of structures in place to facilitate support and interaction within our community. We run two vertical teams, each comprising of around 11 teachers that come from all levels of the school. This means that each team has a diversity of year levels and teaching experience. Each team is lead by a Learning Leader, of which I am one. Teams meet regularly, and at all times professional development and student outcomes are at the forefront. As a staff we meet weekly, again with PD and student outcomes highlighted. Each member of the teaching staff participates in GROWTH Coaching, with most of us acting as coaches as well as coachees.
Shared Repertoire: We have a shared OneNote notebook where we share ideas and examples of lessons we have taught that link to our competency based curriculum. Furthermore, because of the competency based curriculum we have a shared language with our learners and each other.
Defining My Practice Within the Community
As a Learning Leader and an early adopter of the competency based curriculum, I have quite an active role within the community. As a leader I am expected to model best practice as well as showing that I am open to and actively pursuing new learning. Being on the Leadership team means I get regular opportunities to interact with Mark, which means I can clarify new concepts for my team, and have some say in the direction we are heading. As we are all on this journey together I feel very connected to the community, we all learn together, it is new for all of us, and as a staff we tend to be supportive and open with each other. There are many occasions where I get to learn from others in the community as they share something they have tried or experienced. On other occasions, I have the opportunity to take the lead or share my new learning, so it is definitely a community that is based on the principle of a social learning system, with each part contributing to the whole.
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization, 7(2), 225-246.