Friday, 22 August 2014 21:09

Communities of Practice: An Introduction

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We have a need for innovative and transformative education in our modern times. Using the creative problem solving process in designing lessons, classes, programs and the college can help meet that need. Understanding and realization of this process is through defining the “problem” or opportunities through exploring data and framing problems, generating ideas, developing solutions, building acceptance of the idea, iterative or cyclical design, visualization and discussion.

What are CoPs?

Communities of practice (CoPs) are when groups of individuals come together (in person or virtually) to share information on their common interests. This allows for those with similar interests to break free from operating in isolation, connecting those in similar fields with peers in different organizations from all over the world. CoPs are in line with the movement in organizations to encourage life long learners within their membership. Communities of practice can be thought of as continuous, informal professional development. They occur most often at the initiative of the individual rather than the organization that they work for. Most often CoPs are used to problem solve, coordinate, request information, discuss, and acquire resources.


(Coghlan, 2010) –Used under creative commons license

What benefits exist for educators in CoPs?

Educators, eager to connect with others in their field, have been notable utilizers of CoPs. Educators, more so than most other professions, rely heavily on conversations with others to help make their practice more effective. Think of CoPs in education as a massive employee lounge, where educators can bounce ideas off of one another, discuss what worked and what didn’t, as well as sharing specific lesson and unit plans.

Why foster CoPs for higher education students?

CoPs need not be reserved solely for professionals. Students have a great deal to benefit from joining communities of practice as well. Through CoPs students can connect to others studying the same subject matter in hopes of sharing ideas and resources. Students can also connect to professionals who are currently working in their chosen field. Imagine the benefits for a student taking policing courses to be able connect directly with a police officer and thereby obtain a clearer understanding of not only course content, but also what the future may hold for them. Using CoPs this way can allow for an informal mentorship opportunities to exist. It also can help the professionals in the field gain a clearer understanding of developments within the education realm. CoPs could also prove to be an invaluable gateway to employment for students.

CoPs and social media

Communities of practice has benefited from the rise of social media allowing for those with similar interests to easily connect with one another anytime and from any place. Those seeking CoPs on social media can look to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as effective platforms. Within Facebook and LinkedIn networked groups exist where interaction can flourish. On Twitter popular hashtags create threads of shared information. For example popular hashtags in the educational realm include: #edchat, #edtech, and #elearning to name a few. From here you can read all about content that you are interested in as well as find other individuals who are actively sharing ideas. Connecting to others in your field of work and interest will allow for continued learning and professional growth on a daily basis.

What are your experiences using communities of practice? Share them in the comments below


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Kyle Snowdon

I am an instructional designer focused on creating the best possible learning environments for students, as well as supporting instructors with their visions for their classrooms. My educational interests focus on mobile devices in the classroom, as well as digital literacy and digital citizenship for students.