Researching Communities of Practice (CoP) I have found them of great value. I joined a few CoPs such as the Instructional Design Central, ID2ID (part of my Peer Mentor program), Brightspace Community, and Higher Education Teaching and Learning (part of LinkedIn). Doing so has provided me with new ideas, advice from peers, and numerous resources.
Larger CoPs would be hard to follow. Smaller groups are more effective and give you a better feel of a community. Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) faculty have an excellent opportunity to be part of a CoP. The CoP we have is the IUP Reflective Practice Project. Reflective Practice (RP) is a project sponsored by IUP’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) to support faculty and encourage reflective and effective teaching. The reflective practice offers both monthly large group, Saturday workshops, and teaching circles.
I would recommend joining CoPs, such as those we have here at IUP, or others faculty may find that are more specific to their discipline. These groups are very useful to other professionals such as Instructional Designers. I would recommend them to my colleague and other peers as well.
Using CoPs for teaching would be a challenge. The key would be how it is constructed. They are more of a bound community. Wilson, Ludwig-Hardman, Thornam, and Dunlap (2004) state, in their article, Bounded Community: Designing and facilitating learning communities in formal courses, that a bound community is a “… different notion of learning community within a curriculum framework – bounded by the expectations inducing participation, but also by the timeframe of a typical course. Course participants come together for a standard, pre-determined period, sometimes a term or semester in length, but often for a shorter duration…”
I found some excellent recourses that speak to building CoPs and for using CoPs in a course, Learning Communities In Classrooms: A Reconceptualization of Educational Practice by Bielaczyc and Collins. Another excellent resource is Community of Practice Design Guide: A Step-by-Step Guide for Designing & Cultivating Communities of Practice in Higher Education by Cambridge and Suter (2005). It was published by Educause.
One key aspect of CoPs, I learned from my ID2ID group, is how to keep up with CoPs. The recommendation was to schedule time in my workday (as possible) to review my CoPs. A simple idea but very effective. There will always be interruptions but it is a way to remind one’s self to keep up with the professional development groups. Participation is also important. When I am an active participant I not only learn more about what I post but I also get great advice from my peers.
CoPs have been on my research to do list for the last few weeks. Exploring CoPs has been very helpful in increasing my knowledge and understanding the aspect of social and situated learning.