My Community of Practice

Activity One, Week 25, NZ Mind Lab, PRACTICE paper

I love the word community. It has such brilliant connotations. You only have to google its definition to discover the beauty of its implications.

community-definition

I once did a paper at University called “Community Theatre”. We had to engage with a community in the area and create a piece of theatre around that community. I loved the idea that theatre has aspects that allow for social change and engagement with real people. My husband worked with Te Rakau – a community-based theatre group that creates “socially significant theatre works which resonate culturally, therapeutically, and artistically for audience members and participants alike” (quote from the website).

Their name resonates with me in terms of the question of what a community of practice is. It was gifted to them by Ngati Toa iwi and means: “The blossoming fruit tree of our sacred grove.” I made a connection between this and what resonated with me in the video from Knox (2009). He compared communities of practice to the tending of a garden, where you foster it’s development, rather than forcing its creation. If we use this analogy, then the “blossoming fruit tree” is the shared practice or repertoire and the “sacred grove” is the domain or community itself (Wenger, 2000). A beautiful name.

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I have attached Knox’s video here. It is a little long to watch, but the part I am referring to comes up at 2:30 if you are interested.

What I also love about communities, and particularly communities of practice, is their tendency to develop quite organically. If you sew the seeds of one it will often develop, but you can’t force one into being. It is the shared need and the development of mutual respect and relationships that make them strong.

In actual fact, I have first-hand experience with this. At a previous school, I set up a Google+ community to share interesting ideas or articles relevant to teaching and learning. In six months I remained the sole poster, with only two or three other teachers ever commenting on posts. This is not to criticise that school or those teachers, it is possible that that was not a need at the time, or it was not the right mode at the time. It may have developed further as relationships built.

As with all things educational (in my humble opinion that is), it is the relationships that are key in communities of practice. Wenger (2000) talks of mutual engagement by participants and that through interactions they become trusted partners. I liken this to finding your “tribe”. This image from Sylvia Duckworth sums that up well. (follow this link to get a better view of this great graphic)

find-your-tribe

 

So what is/are my Communities of Practice? Well, on reflection, I believe I have several quite active Communities of Practice. Two that I find very helpful in my professional practice are the #BFC630NZ whanau and the #NZReadaloud crew.

I have written about #BFC630NZ previously for the WellyEd blog here. Our shared domain of interest is teaching and learning in a New Zealand context. Our regular group of contributors is, I believe, particularly interested in modern learning pedagogy, the integration of technologies, and changes in education. We “meet” every weekday morning (6:30am, hence the name) during term time on twitter to chat one question. It inspires and invigorates us for the rest of our day. We are supportive of each other during the chats, but also beyond them. I know that I can rely on those #BFC630NZ folk to answer questions I put out, challenge my thinking in respectful ways, and to be supportive of anything I am doing in my professional (and also personal!) life. Ideas are shared, and often resources too. I am an active and frequent participant in this COP and occasionally have taken the lead with discussions. I feel like we in this group are “extended colleagues”.

The #NZReadaloud has become an old friend to me, as have many of its participants as well. You can find out more about it at this website: #NZReadaloud. Basically, it is a literacy programme that enables teachers and students to connect with others across New Zealand around a shared text. I have been a participant since Term 2, 2015, and it has changed my literacy teaching practice substantially. For the better, I might add. Our joint-enterprise is the Read Aloud, which runs Term 1 -3 and our shared domain of interest connected literacy – literacy beyond the boundaries of our own classroom walls. We engage online regularly via twitter and facebook, as well as in groups on Edmodo during the Read Aloud. There is a core group of people who are passionate about promoting the Read Aloud and getting it out to more and more NZ students. I believe it is the connections between students and the engagement with literacy in students that is what we produce. It also empowers teachers to change their teaching practice and to collaborate with others. I have lead many groups for the #NZReadaloud and am a passionate advocate for the initiative. I contribute as much as I can to ensure its success.

And, there you have it! Those are my top Communities of Practice. Both were things I stumbled upon by chance  but are now integral parts of my professional network. Both adding to my reasoning for loving the word community.

References:
Knox, B.(2009, December 4). Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow.. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhMPRZnRFkk
Wenger, E.(2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246 (Available in Unitec Library).

 

Oh, and here’s another reason to love it, the hilarious television programme, Community. This clip also shows an important element of Communities or Practice – learning people’s names!

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My Community of Practice

7 thoughts on “My Community of Practice

  1. I loved reading your blogpost on Communities of learning. I particularly felt comfort in the image you posted by Sylvia Duckworth – I had inadvertently used a number of her points raised in my own blogpost but wasn’t sure I was on the right track [having missed the workshop] except now I think I must be on the right track. http://cheesyuk.blogspot.co.nz/
    It’s interesting to reflect on the numbers of communities we are involved in, I too struggled to nail it down to just one.

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  2. Ximena Aitken says:

    I’ve also found that the communities of practice outside school, such as #BFC630NZ and #NZReadaloud, have helped me stretch my boundaries further but in a very supportive way. The analogy of finding your tribe is so apt! We all need encouragement but encouragement that is honest and motivates one into action rather than just nice ‘well done’ platitudes. On reflection, I think we have more control over the CoPs we choose to be part of so this helps with the motivation to contribute big time, whereas school is a different setting. I also think being proactive in searching for CoP’s to nurture our growth is a must to keep relevant and inspired, and it’s so positive to find CoP’s who are on the same waka but can stretch me a bit further.

    Prof Hattie’s research points to ‘teacher collective efficacy’ as being the single most indicator of student success through the sharing of expert knowledge and support, so being part of CoP’s is all the more important.

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    1. Agreed Ximena – searching for your “niche” is so vital. Isn’t it a wonderful combination when your school and your CoP are one and the same?! (Or one of your CoP). It sometimes happens!

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  3. Sez Pupuke says:

    Great blog Belinda. I too have felt the frustration of trying to ‘create’ a community of practice only to be the only active participant. But the important thing is that you tried. I’m glad you have found your ‘tribe’ in other places. Ximena it was interesting to see the evidence from Hattie that you posted, that makes perfect sense to me as I personally couldn’t survive the challenges of teaching without participating in my communities of practice and believe that I learn so much through these interactions. It sounds like you do too!

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  4. One of the tribes I also include as a COP is EdChatNZ – twitter group. Always enlightening conversations with professionals every Thursday fortnight. As educators our COP’s should reach far and wide if we are actively online and it should keep us engaged and enlightened so we can keep inspiring the youth of today but keeping ourselves sane too – lets face it this job can take a lot out of us! It’s always good to know there are others feeling the same.
    Mindfulness is conceptualized as promoting high levels of well-being; specifically, mindfulness may directly foster well-being by providing additional fullness and richness to experience, and mindfulness may indirectly enhance well-being by facilitating healthy self-regulatory behaviour, including an enhanced attentiveness to one’s goals and an enhanced capacity to act in accordance with them (Brown and Ryan 2003; Brown et al. 2007; Shapiro and Schwartz 1999, 2000).

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