According to Wenger (2010) there are three characteristics of a Community of Practice
The Domain: My domain is education and a commitment to enhance teaching and learning for all students.
The Community: My community is predominantly within my school setting; talking, discussing, observing, learning, researching, and inquiring together.
The Practice: As a community we develop our own teaching resources, our own learning language specific to our school (values, qualities of learning). We have policies and procedures, which are developed collaboratively.
a) What is the purpose and function of your practice?
Within my school community of practice I am a walking Deputy Principal. I oversee the Junior School (year 0-4), transition into school, SENCO and assessment. I teach in classes when teachers are on courses or sick which enables me to see each class regularly.
b) In what ways do you contribute to the community of your practice?
My role is to help teachers achieve accelerated progress for all their students. To do this I try to ask questions and empower them to make their own decisions and to reflect on how their practice is helping their students. Through my own professional development and through working under different principals, I have seen my own abilities to communicate change. I am more able to challenge and question staff (in a supportive way), so that instead of always seeking help vertically, they are using their teaching colleagues as their first source. This year I am focussed on inquiry with my junior teachers to help them become more reflective on their own classroom practice. To gain buy in I have made sure that I have developed my own inquiry (using the Mindlab format) and discussed with staff how I have sourced data and made my own reflections open for them to see. I am actively trying to improve my use of learning language (Hattie, 2013), with staff, whanau and students. Often the students are better at expressing their areas of success and failure whereas staff can be more closed off or habitual in their way of communicating and thinking.
What are the core values that underpin my profession? Evaluate you practice with regard to these values.
An interesting question to answer. Within my Community of Practice as a teacher I am accountable to the “Practising Teacher Criteria which describe the essential knowledge and capabilities required for quality teaching in New Zealand. They apply to all teachers in their everyday professional practice seeking to be issued with a full practising certificate, or renew full certification” (Education Council, n.d.).
However, within my Community of Practice specific to my school, we have another set of values which were written and decided on by students, the community and teachers. If I am to encourage the language of learning with my staff and students then these should be values that I aspire to uphold too.
Mana (At Glenbrook School we are respectful, strong and resilient):
I think I am a very resilient person – change is something that occurs so often in both small and large events that I live by the mantra ‘We can’t undo the change so how do we move forward from it?” I see this as a positive when working with staff who can become stressed by change. I know that because I portray being resilient and stress free I still need to remember to express to others that I am also feeling overworked and incredibly busy. The image of the duck paddling furiously underwater sums me up perfectly at times.
Ako (At Glenbrook School we are all learners):
This is an area of strength for me and one that I enjoy developing in my own time. My Mindlab studies have helped me to further see how the ability for teachers to continue learning will impact on their students.
One of my students asked me in 3D printing club on Friday “Miss Shears are you the cleverest teacher in the school?” I said ‘Why do you think that?” and she replied, “Because you teach coding and 3D printing”. My response was that actually I knew a lot less than some of the year 7/8 students about both topics, but I was interested to learn myself. My job isn’t necessarily to teach the students but to learn alongside them.
Within my CoP I support my colleagues who are all embarking in Post Graduate studies. I help to release them when large assignments are coming up and look forward to reading and giving feedback on their assignments. I seem to be the guru for APA referencing at the moment!
Whakawhanaungatanga (At Glenbrook School we work as a community together):
Perhaps key to why our CoP works is the way we work as colleagues to share practices. This has become a strength in parts of the school this year and through my own inquiry and those of my colleagues we have become much more able to discuss our successes and more importantly our failures openly. By being directly involved in the process myself enables teachers to include me in conversations rather than seeing me as just their leader and changing their rhetoric to what they think I want to hear.
Manaakitanga (At Glenbrook School we care and value people and the world):
I would like to think all teachers accept this value as why we became educators in the first place. I strive to encourage this value with staff when they think about their next term’s inquiry. The ‘act’ part of our inquiry model – how will your learning help others outside our community?
I’m really interested in the statement from Wenger and Trayner’s website:
…but what happens if members don’t interact and learn together…..perhaps this will be a another reflection at a later time.
Interview John Hattie, 2013. In Conversation Know Thy Impact; Teaching, Learning and Leading. Spring 2013 – Volume 1, Issue 2. ISSN 1922-2394. Ontario Ministry of Education.
Wenger, E.(2000).Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization,7(2), 225-246