10 SES 14 C, Partnerships and Communities of Practice
The purpose of this study was to follow the professional activities of three CoPs in which policymakers and teacher educators collaborated. These CoPs have been operating over ten years and had significant influence upon conceptualizations and practice in their fields. The study explored the following questions: 1. In which ways did three Communities of Practice (CoPs) transform existing practices in teacher education? 2. What characteristics do these CoPs have in common, that could have contributed to the improvement of practice?
The study aimed to reveal factors and affordances conducive to these effects. The objectives are significant when considering the longstanding claim that practitioners, researchers and policymakers "live in different worlds" of practice, with too limited opportunities for open dialogue, knowledge mobilization and collaboration (Edwards, Sebba & Rickinson, 2007; Hargreaves, 1999). Vanderlinde & van Braak (2010) suggested that the borders between these sectors can be crossed through CoPs in which professionals from the three groups collaborate. The current study follows such CoPs and provides evidence that can be useful for future attempts.
CoPs are groups of professionals who share a concern and interact regularly with each other in order to improve their practices. CoPs do not have to be consisted of participants who have the same practices. They can be heterogeneous groups of professionals who align with each other in order to transform existing practices to achieve their common goals (Wenger-Trayner, Fenton-O’Creevy, Hutchison, Kubiak & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). Salient characteristics of CoPs are 1. Shared vision that ignites participants' imagination, and motivates them to act and change established routines (Wenger-Trayner et al., 2015) 2. Focus upon learning and improving practices. In CoPs, knowledge and practice are inseparable (Wenger-Trayner et al., 2015) 3. Participants are engaged in reflective and critical discourse, sharing their experiences, ideas and practices (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas., 2006) 4. Participants trust each other and are mutually respectful and supportive (Stoll et al., 2006) 5. CoPs operate over prolonged periods of time, meeting regularly and frequently. The interaction between participants is continuous, as they communicate and work with each other between meetings (Wenger, 1998).
Expansive learning is a process in which groups of professionals create new knowledge that didn't exist before, in contrast with appropriation of knowledge developed elsewhere. It transforms individual as well as organizational practices and affects their broader contexts (Engeström & Sannino, 2010; Sannino, Engeström & Lemos, 2016). The process of expansive learning is unorderly and full of tensions. There are typical phases that can be identified along its course, even though in reality, there may be regressions, repetitions and omissions of phases. (1) Identifying dissatisfactory aspects in current practices (2) Analyzing the causes of the problematic practices or the ways in which they are perpetuated (3) Suggesting novel ideas to resolve the problems and configuring an alternative model of practice (4) applying the alternative model in an exploratory manner (5) Adjusting and enriching the new model as a consequence of accumulated experience in its implementation (6) Reflecting and evaluating the new model (7) Consolidating the outcomes by establishing new practices (Engeström & Sannino, 2010; Sannino et al., 2016).
CoPs in which participants come from diverse practices and organizations can be particularly suitable sites for expansive learning because they expose professionals to perspectives they were unaware of before. PoCs' potential influence increases when participants have the ability to introduce changes into their respective organizations or disciplines. In these cases coordinated changes can take place simultaneously, across multiple organizations (Engeström & Sannino, 2010; Wenger-Trayner et al., 2015).
A multiple case study framework guided the collection and analysis of data (Flyvbjerg, 2011) through conducting semi-structured interviews with participants and collecting artefacts the CoPs produced. CoPs: The study targeted three CoPs in which policymakers and teacher educators collaborated. They were established by the Mofet institute in Israel, which is a nonprofit organization financed by the Ministry of Education. The Mofet institute supports the professional development of teacher educators from all of the country's teacher education colleges. The targeted CoPs' participants are heads of units, either within their respective colleges, or within the Ministry of Education. The CoPs' fields of practice are (i) supporting students with learning disabilities, (ii) establishing partnerships between academic institutes and schools in initial teacher education and (iii) beginning teachers' induction into schools. Materials: The gathered materials were CoPs’ artefacts: all of the meeting protocols, books, research papers, position papers, legislation bills, etc. Participants: The participants in the study were the four facilitators of the CoPs (one CoP had two facilitators), three policymakers, and 2-3 teacher educators from each of the CoPs (in total 8 participants). Interviews: The semi-structured interview protocol included questions on (i) the history of the CoP as experienced by the participant, (ii) participants' motivations to join the CoP, (iii) CoPs' topics and working habits, (iv) interpersonal relations within the CoP, (v) the facilitators' roles, leadership style and effectiveness, (vi) participants' own activities and contributions to their CoP, or to individual members and (vii) CoPs' effects upon participants' own practice, their respective institute and beyond that level. Data analysis: Examples of expansive learning were identified as changes in the practice of individual institutes and beyond that were anchored in novel conceptualizations. CoPs' histories were reconstructed from the meetings' protocols, and the interview data, looking for discussions of experiences with novel forms of practice. These were traced back to the problems and resolution attempts leading to these experiences, and forward, to indications of changed practices. The materials the CoPs produced, such as research or position papers, reveal the conceptualizations associated with the changed practices, and were used for triangulation. A "grounded theory" approach was applied to identify recurrent themes in the interview data, relating to CoPs' characteristics (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). During the coding process, similar text units were given codes derived from the existing literature on CoPs, as much as possible, leaving room for novel codes when necessary (Mason 1996).
Three cases of expansive learning will be presented: (i) Conceptualizing the working model of academic support centers for students with learning disabilities. Support centers had to deal with negative attitudes of their superiors, who doubted whether students with learning disabilities could become good teachers. The CoP used the "learning from success" methodology (Schechter, Sykes & Rosenfeld, 2008) to demonstrate that students with learning disabilities can be highly successful. The research extracted implicit knowledge and working principles of the centers. These were published and used to coordinate support centers' practices, and to request adaptations from the academic institutes to meet students' needs. The requests were supported by the participating policymaker and adopted by the academic institutes. (ii) Applying the partnership model in initial teacher education. Nine colleges of education experimented with the model over long periods of time, each developing its own version of the model. Directors of partnership programs met at the CoP to consult with each other and with the relevant policymaker. Their conceptualizations of the model and the issues that need to be addressed in the Israeli context were researched and published. Based upon these insights, the Israeli Ministry of Education created its own partnership model and disseminated it as an experimental initiative to all academic teacher-educating institutes. (iii) Induction of beginning teachers. One college has initiated an experimental partnership model, in which cohorts of beginning teachers arrive at schools and participate in local CoPs with school and college based teacher educators. CoP discussions inspired other colleges to join the initiative. The three CoPs consist of participants from diverse institutes and practices that bring multiple perspectives and areas of expertise. Owing to their position within their institutes, mutual trust and sharing, they were able to induce coordinated changes and improve practice.
Edwards, A., Sebba, J., & Rickinson, M. (2007). Working with users: Some implications for educational research. British Educational Research Journal, 33(5), 647–661. Engeström, Y., & Sannino, A. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges. Educational Research Review, 5, 1–24. Flyvbjerg, B. (2011). Case study. In: N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, (4th ed., pp. 301–316). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago, Ill: Aldine Hargreaves, D. H. (1999). Revitalising educational research: Lessons from the past and proposals for the future. Cambridge Journal of Education, 29(2), 239-49. Mason, J. (1996). Qualitative Researching. London: Sage. Sannino, A., Engeström, Y., & Lemos, M. (2016). Formative interventions for expansive learning and transformative agency. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 25(4), 599-633. Schechter, C., Sykes, I., & Rosenfeld, J. (2008). Learning from success as leverage for school learning: lessons from a national programme in Israel. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 11(3), 301-318. Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221-258. Vanderlinde, R., & van Braak, J. (2010). The gap between educational research and practice: Views of teachers, school leaders, intermediaries and researchers. British Educational Research Journal, 36(2), 299–316. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press. Wenger-Trayner, E., Fenton-O’Creevy, M., Hutchison, S., Kubiak, C., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Learning in landscapes of practice. NY: Routledge.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
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