I am currently a classroom teacher and leader of science in a small urban school in Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt. In describing my “community of practice”, I reflected on Wenger’s definition: “communities that share cultural practices reflecting their communal learning” (Wenger 2000 p 229) and “groups of people who share a concern or a passion or about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4). Using this definition, I have an affiliation to a large number of Communities of Practice. Looking only at education these include: my teaching colleagues, the students, the science teaching community, the enviroschools community, the Mindlab community, the twitter community...... All of these groups have their own unique beliefs, practices and educational relationships. As described by Knox (2009) these are groups of people who have the passion and purpose that leads to an exchange of knowledge and professional development.
Using the first definition of community of practice (Wenger 2000 p 229) I can see that in our school which has both a bilingual whanau unit and a Pasifika class, some cultural practices are shared while others are not. This does not stop us being a community of practice, but it does bring into question, the validity of the definition. I find that the second definition (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4) resonates better for my own situation in our school. A cultural divide arises from a lack of knowledge of the traditional tikanga of each group. While we work hard to address this, it is a constantly moving target as families and staff move into and out of our kura.
Wenger (2000) describes three essential elements of these communities of practice as
The domain: Within Koraunui, this is to give our students opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills required by 21st Century learners. Learning forms the core of our domain. This includes aspects such as learning about ourselves, about each other, about our multicultural community, academic learning and culminates in providing rich opportunities for our students.
Our community has a foundation of mutual respect and trust. That said, there are communities within the larger school community. Our whanau community, our Pasifika community and our Aoraki community. Each has its own focus and develops its own purpose. From these groups we then move together to design the purpose of our school community working collaboratively to ensure that it meets the needs of our children. Sometimes there is conflict and dissonance within these communities but we routinely reflect on our practice and continue to address issues and further develop our skills and competencies.
Within the various Koraunui communities there is sharing of capabilities and opportunities. We grow our skills, knowledge, and understandings collectively, through face-to-face and online discussions, sharing, encouraging and supporting each other. This collaboration is enhanced by reflection, both self-reflection and team reflection.
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. Organisation, 225-246.
Wenger, E. M. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge MA: Harvard Business School Press.