Researching and teaching in a ‘community of practice’

In a report I’ve referred to elsewhere, the authors/researchers drew on the concept of ‘community of practice’ in order to carry out their research. They write:

Wenger and Snyder (2000, p.139) define communities of practice as “groups of people … bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise”. They go on to say that [-p.7] “people in communities of practice share their experiences and knowledge in free-flowing, creative ways that foster new approaches to problems”.” (6-7)

“The centre’s development of structures was underpinned by Wenger’s ideas of community of practice. Wenger (1998) describes three dimensions that can be related to the coherence of a community when associating it with practice. These are:

1. mutual engagement

2. a joint enterprise

3. a shared repertoire of systems and processes formed over time, where meaning is negotiated.

For Wenger, mutual engagement is what defines the community, and whatever it takes to make it possible is an essential component of practice. Mutual engagement in practice creates relationships among people which can be diverse and complex, including conflict and tension as well as harmony and happiness. Negotiation by the community determines and shapes the practice and results in a mutual accountability among its members that can develop practice [-p.12] as well as monitoring and self monitoring of performance. Practice evolves through the community’s collective response to situations as it negotiates its way to shared understandings . This does not mean that everybody agrees with everything or believes in the same thing; challenges and disagreements have been seen as a productive part of the enterprise and require a great deal of trust and respect in the members’ relationships.

As members of the community work collectively on the enterprise, a shared history of engagement is developed over time that becomes a resource for negotiating meaning. Such things as routines, policies, procedures, language, artefacts, staff meetings, and general ways of doing things that have been developed over the course of time became shared points of reference used in the production of new meanings. Coherence has been gained from the fact that the philosphical meanings, policy and resources belong to the community that is pursuing the enterprise.” (11-12)

Note that earlier, the authors explained this framework of three dimensions of engagement further: ” For this centre, the development of the community of practice has been based on the ideas of Etienne Wenger (1998) where the three dimensions of engagement are: mutual engagement: the community negotiating and talking to each other about what they do; a joint enterprise: the community working together in a situation where they are mutually accountable for what they do; and a shared repertoireprocesses where they can negotiate meaning. For ECE staff, this may include staff meetings, professional development, opportunities to talk about what they are doing, notebooks and learning stories, and so on.” (2)

Ref: (Ako Ngatahi Teaching and Learning Together as One.  From Leadership to Enquiry.  Teachers’ work in an Infants’ and Toddlers’ Centre, published 2008. Author(s): Raewyne Bary, Caryn Deans, Monika Charlton, Heather Hullet, Faith Martin, Libby Martin, Paulette Moana, Olivia Waugh, Barbara Jordan & Cushla Scrivens. Summary and full report available at the education counts website:


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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