The idea of Community of Practice (CoP) is based on the concept that learning takes place within a social context and evolves when people who have a common goal interact as they strive towards achieving those goals. Fundamentally, the concept is credited to Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger who constructed legitimate peripheral participation to facilitate learning. The basic principle behind the Community of Practice is that people learn in everyday life from the communities in which they find themselves. It, therefore, implies that the Communities of Practice are everywhere and nearly every person belongs to a given population of practice. According to Wenger (2000), the community of practice is distinct from a community of interest, based on the fact that the former is based on a shared practice. Education is one of the critical organization where the concept of the Community of Practice has significantly contributed considerable developments concerning enhanced learning, increased sharing of ideas, better knowledge development and consistent communication about the emerging issues within the educational sector (Wenger and Snyder, 2000). Other than the benefits, the various challenges and opportunities have been linked to the adoption of the community practice within the educational sector. This paper, therefore, provides a discussion of benefits, challenges, and opportunities regarding the integration of community practice in education. It also highlights the strategies for reducing barriers related to the use of CoP in the educational sector.
Benefits of Community of Practice Integration in Education
According to Bates (2014), the adoption of the Community of Practice in education has proven to be an invaluable asset among the educators. One benefit of the integration of the Community of Practice in education is that it has enhanced a secure connection of educators with their colleagues outside their school community to form an invaluable professional learning network. The concept of networking, in this case, may sound intimidating in this case but generally involves establishing conversations whether online or in person. Thus, the adoption of the Community of Practice among the educators enhances sharing best practice related learning and teaching. To be able to improve their understanding, educators need to engage with their education. This may involve asking others educators to gain the insights and views that they may not see themselves. Fundamentally, the use of a reflective model such as the Brookfield's four lenses is a tremendously good starting point to improve their learning and therefore an engaged collaboration with others to lead.
The community of Practice has helped provide good quality feedback among the educators (Bates, 2014). Educators must be worried about the potential feedbacks that they may contain, and which may potentially upset their colleagues. Fundamentally, the feedbacks should not be destructive in the sense that it upsets other people. As such, the Community of Practice (CoP) has helped the educators improve their knowledge by helping them hear constructive suggestions from colleagues around the world. In as much as educators may not like what they hear, their interpretations of the events may be different from those that experience them. Studies have found that exposure to other talented and passionate individuals who share practice provides ways to transform the instructional practice as well as professional growth. Majority of the educators always want to transform teaching and learning in a school library with the aim of creating a dynamic learning space with the students engaged in the lesson. In this case, therefore, teachers engagement with other colleagues through an online with the support of the information technology equip them with substantial knowledge related to the core contents, critical thinking, problem solving and the teaching competencies (Butin, 2010). These have further helped in interactions with information resources, and choice in communicating new meanings and understandings is rooted in a shared vision among the educators.
The community of practice enhances a consistent and efficient communication which has encouraged the educators to invest their efforts where there is limited previous knowledge. Fundamentally, the collaborative learning environment has proven crucial in providing the opportunity to test their skills without encountering significant risks. Pittaway et al. (2011) reported that Community of Practice offers the chance for the experiential learning and teaching outside the constraints of the curriculum. In this sense, therefore, the Community of practice establishes a god foundation for learning from experience, creative, supportive environment within which educators can take risks and fail, and thus encouraging and inspiring learning and spirit.
Despite the benefits and contributions that the community of practice have for educators, some issues and difficulties prevent the introduction, implementation, and the integration of the communities of practice to supplement teaching practices in education. Research has shown that the application of the Community of Practice is tremendously time-consuming for the educators because one needs to engage other colleagues either on an online platform or in person (Kerno Jr, 2008). Concerning the time factor, the time necessary to structure given to involving oneself as an educator in the activities conducive to the effectiveness of the community of practice to allow engagement with others. In the same way, educators are already suffering under the excessive workload and therefore getting time to connect online may prove difficult.
The regional culture or the socio-cultural environment also affects the effective integration of the Community of Practice (Kerno Jr, 2008). A community of practice, being a typical configuration can reflect the more comprehensive social structures institutions or their absence. The presence of stable social structures and the socio-cultural environment may correspondingly have stronger and more effective communities of practice. However, the difference in the socio-cultural environment among individuals and groups plays a critical role in determining the success in the implementation (Kerno Jr, 2008). Within the context of education as an institution, differences in the cultures among the individuals may reduce the rate of understanding as well as destroying connectedness that may emanate amongst the individuals.
The prevailing trends, the acceleration of the activities and the need to improve the quality of education will increase the adoption of the community of practice concept, as well as its integration within the educational context. It is further based on the fact that the curriculum is increasingly becoming more complex and therefore the need to become more informed about the current issues and knowledgeable. Additionally, if the majority of individuals within the Community of Practice will be less concerned about maintaining their hierarchical ordering and instead focus on the maximization of performance, there is a possibility that the status quo among the educators may not prevail and the communities of practice efforts are highly generating substantive progress and benefits.
How Education May Be Transformed Through Information Technology
The use of Information Technology in educational sector has had tremendous benefits. Fundamentally, IT has enhanced the communication-related assistance. One of the essential functions being played by technology in today's world is that it has made communication among the educational stakeholders much more comfortable than what it earlier used to be. It is important to note that education cannot be outside the purview of such influence as well (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Communication is part of learning institutions as well as in the current dispensation. The use of IT has further transformed the school management through the use of software that can help significantly when it comes to the internal messaging system. It implies that educators can interact with students and themselves thus improving information sharing, feedback provision and the acquisition of new knowledge and ideas.
Bates, T. (2014). "The role of communities of practice in a digital age." Retrieved from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/10/01/the-role-of-communities-of-practice-in-a-digital-age/
Butin, D. (2010). Service-learning in theory and practice: The future of community engagement in higher education. Springer.
The Infographic: How to become a connected educator. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=164Kerno Jr, S. J. (2008). Limitations of communities of practice: a consideration of unresolved issues and difficulties in the approach. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(1), 69-78.
Wenger, E. C. and Snyder, W. M. (2000): Communities of practice: The organizational frontier, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 139-145.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2011). connect and inspire: communities of practice in education. Retrieved from http://connectededucators.org/report/files/2011/03/COCP-Connect-report-draft-201103.pdf
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