Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Community of Practice

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. 
The community:   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.  
The practice:   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

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.



  1. Hello Dianne

    It is interesting to read about your school and the communities of learning you are part of. I really appreciate your honesty about some practices being shared and some not and how this affects your practice and being as a community. In a really diverse school in Mount Roskill I find this is a really challenging question that is definitely worth going deep with.

    As you talked about the different communities that form a community (e.g. Pasifika and Aoraki) I wonder how this interaction and formation might look in a diagram. I am sure it would be a lot of overlapping groups, providing a messy but inviting diversity within community! You are right we certainly have plenty to learn from each other and with each other.

    Keep up with your great thinking and growth in your community!
    Bridget Lawrence

    1. Hi Bridget,
      You are absolutely correct about the overlapping groups that are formed. Children from all ethnicities participate in both Kapa Haka and Pasifika developing respect for and awareness of tikanga for both these groups. The difficulty I have is that the opportunities for staff to develop an appreciation of these aspects is limited to PD in the staffroom or afterschool PD. In the end, a little is better than none I guess.

  2. Thanks Dianne for the wonderfully informative post. It was really refreshing to hear you speak in regards to the nature of your school community so openly. As a decile ten school in Havelock North we too ensure our community become a diverse community with Kapa Haka and Pacifica groups within our school although we have very small numbers of these mixed ethnicities. We champion ourselves upon being able to provide our students with rich learning experiences and by providing these mixed cultural opportunities we do more than provide lip service to our community. This sits really well in my teaching philosophy and allows me flexibility to create and provide more of these opportunities.

    Really insightful to hear this happens in far diverse schools too. Thank you again for the post, a great read.