IDENTIFY COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE:
Wenger suggests that Communities of Practice (CoP) have been around since the beginning of history, and he’s right. We are bound together by “joint enterprise” and tend to want to make our contribution. We interact and build trusting relationships with the members of our community. And we develop a “shared repertoire” or set of communal resources.
This holds true of many professions, not least of which is the teaching profession. As many others, I find I have a few overlapping CoPs. But I would like to focus on the two most pertinent, and influential in my domain. The English Department of which I am a senior teacher. And the Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) group, of which I am a member. The purpose of both communities is to deliver the best possible teaching to enhance the greatest level of learning, with students at the core of our enterprise.
EXPLAIN COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE:
As a department, we tend to focus our attention on the tools that best fit the task. This is largely, but not exclusively, the effective use of technology. As members of the ADE community, I have found a similar theme. And this is awesome considering the fact that the only common denominator is that we are teachers, but that’s where it ends. The ADE community is made up of different cultures, languages and teaching domains. But the core values remain the same. As with the English department, we have a shared repertoire of resources. We are expected to produce resources and share these with the community. The goal being to improve our practice. On a practical level, the department members share resources through Google Drive. In keeping with Wenger’s definition, we have a shared purpose called Ako Orewa. The major focus is student agency. To enhance student agency we actively teach the concept of “growth mindset” as defined by Carol Dweck.
As a department, we interact with each other in an informal way on a daily basis. We also have regular departmental meetings, and the more formal appraisal meetings. But the CoP is not exclusive as we involve the most important stakeholders, namely the students and their whanau. Examples of activities we are involved in include regular fortnightly professional development, run by staff from the department. We have an open-door policy and pop in and observe each-others’ lessons.
ADE also has a shared purpose, namely “developing active leaders from around the world,” to “make learning deeply personal for each student.”
ADE members share resources on a dedicated website, as well as publically through iTunes. I have attended two ADE institutes. One held in Singapore and the other held in Berlin. The best way to describe these events is professional development on steroids. From software developers through to primary school teachers, they all have their time to take to the stage and share best practice. After a week, you leave bursting with ideas to implement in your classroom. There is the expectation that you produce and share resources at the end of the institute: Link to resources on iTunes
DEFINE YOUR PRACTICE WITHIN THE COMMUNITY:
I feel a true sense of belonging to both these overlapping CoPs. Having taught English for 27 years, I am one of the senior English teachers and am given responsibilities within the department. My area of interest is blended learning and I regularly share ideas and resources. I would define my role as a leader. I have recently been appointed as an across school Community of Learning (CoL) lead teacher, which reinforces this leadership role. I also feel a sense of belonging to the ADE community. There is the global community, but there is also a smaller New Zealand community. We regularly connect on Facebook and meet up a few times a year. And of course, the institutes are where you really connect, collaborate and create. I see myself as an active member of this community.
Apple Distinguished Educators Program. Retrieved from: http://www.apple.com/nz/education
Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset. Retrieved from: http://www.nclack.k12.or.us
Wenger, E.(200). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organisation, 7(2), 225-240.