Communities of Practice Potential

A previous post refers to my interest in building teacher capacity and capability but I am also very interested in the area of communities of practice (CoP) and strongly believe that CoPs can help in the process of building capacity and capability.  I found this definition of CoP on a website developed by Etienne Wenger, who with Jean Lave termed the phrase ‘Communities of Practice’ in 1991:

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

I have seen evidence of this concern and passion fuelling a greater connection and collaboration between education professionals many times and the chain reaction that occurs out of this CoP it one I believe to be a demonstration of greater teacher capacity and capability.  For example, many NSW DEC teachers engage in Yammer, a social networking site, expressing a deep concern and passion for what is happening in their own educational context and the wider education system as a whole.  They share both successes and failures and collaborate on solutions to problems and share resources.  This community empowers each other in ways that I believe assist in building the capacity and capabilities of a teacher.

[youtube http://youtu.be/YgGAJeXbIFM]

The video above is a great explanation an example of how a CoP was developed and the results that came out of it.  CoP happen in many forms and in many contexts but the ultimate goal is the share concern and passion to move forward and grow.  I love how in this video the miners were encountering a problem that they could not collaboratively fix within their own context so they ventured outside into a wider community that might also have the same concerns.  What the miners did was simply embrace the possibility that an online forum presented and the community concern grew from national to international.  This same pattern occurs with educators as well and I’m very interested in the results it produces.

My questions: what does an effective community of practice look like?  What are the resulting benefits of a CoP?  What impact do CoP have on building teacher capacity and capabilities?  I want to investigate these questions further and will continue to read more on the topic.

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