TEL 703/711: LdC #2

LdC ,TEL 703-711
September 6, 2018

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning meaning, and identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Provocative Question #2:

How does “participation” relate to identifying problems/challenges and solving problems? When/Why do I hold back from participating? When/Why do I commit to solving problems by myself?
How can I positively influence my CoP through participation in “broader configurations” of networks?

Step 1: Prepare for a conversation

Quote/ideas from the book; applications/instances from your workplace setting Page number
“Because learning transforms who we are and what we can do, it is an experience of identity. It is not just an accumulation of skills, but a process of becoming – to become a certain person or, conversely, to avoid becoming a certain person,” (p. 215). 215
“It is often the case that, rather than being direct boundary relations between communities and people or among communities, relations of non-participation are mediated by institutional arrangements,” (p. 169). 169
“We not only produce identities through the practices we engage in, but we also define ourselves through practices we do not engage in. Our identities are constituted no only by what we are but also by what we are not,” (p. 164). 164
Peripherality and marginality both involve a mix of participation and non-participation, and the line between them can be subtle. Yet, they produce qualitatively different experiences and identities, so it would be wrong to associate them too closely,” (p. 166). 166
“When a community makes learning a central part of its enterprise, useful wisdom is not concentrated at the core of its practice. There is a wisdom of peripherality – a view of the community that can be lost to full participants. It includes paths not taken, connections overlooked, choices taken for granted,” (p. 216). 216
“The mix of participation and non-participation through which we define our identities reflects our power as individuals and communities to define and affect our relations to the rest of the world,” (p. 167).  


We have new members on our team, and each week we try to seek out their perspectives on the college, because their experiences with what’s happening are very different from ours. I’ve only been here a year, and yet some of my work has been very much embedded centrally in what the college is doing. So getting new perspectives at the periphery is very important.

Step 2: Hold a conversation

Here are my notes from the fishbowl session:

  • J: reading page 56, “participation is the possibility of…” – thinking about this from the lens of problem sovling as a group…which means that everyone needs to recognize it AS A PROBLEM…
  • C1: when I’m in a new community and trying to participate, I observe a lot to try to fit/morph in…I bring my own experiences and am trying to synthesize and weave..
  • C2: Participation is not just activity or participating just for the sake of it, but you’re embedding yourself in it…
  • M2: 159 – identities are not things we just turn on and off…I find myself reflecting on my first leadership team…I’m a natural introvert and analytical tale, and sometimes my identity and participation is not the generally accepted/privileged way of extroversion…it has taken me a while to reconcile what participation looks like in terms of leadership.
  • C1: 141 – competence within a space of participation. Knowledge in the traditional sense…competence levels change over time…
  • J: In practice, even the meanings of inequality are negotiated…coming into a new job from a place of peripherality…
  • M2: sometimes it’s positional – not hierarchical, but functional – so sometimes it’s time to talk and sometimes it’s not!
  • M1: 145 – identity…brings to the fore participation and non-participation.
  • C2: With non-participation…my role is still new…I tend to feel confident, but my participation wasn’t all-in and I didn’t feel like a part of the community…and it turned out that it backfired…it’s almost like fighting yourself on forcing participation because it impacts other people…a push to invest…
  • M1: If I do have thoughts and or perceptions, what’s my threshold point or obligation? Normally I feel very confident in my abilities, but in terms of responsibilities to the job itself, that’s not always certain – and that impacts my participation
  • C1: Being new is hard for me….I want to invest so that when I do change, they’ll know that I’m visible and that I’m working at it, and when I want to make a change, they’ll believe that I’ve listened and have credibility.
  • M2: Matters about when I engage and when I don’t. P. 4 talks about learning as social participation…
  • Bennett: what does this have to do with leadership and innovation?
  • M1: leadership can often fall to us, and when problems arise they need to be solved.
  • R1: as a leader, you also set a space or an atmosphere or culture that allows others to step up; If you find yourself always having to take the lead, you need to check yourself…
  • M2: I had a professional development position…
  • R2: How do you create peripheral participation opportunities for those to move toward more full participation?
  • M1: Shadowing;

Step 3: Determine your leadership challenge

For this leadership challenge, I’m thinking about the element of broader participation in configurations of networks, and also about the notes from the fishbowl where my classmates where discussing being new to a situation and weighing when to step up or step back. I’m thinking about some work our team will be launching across the college in the coming weeks and months, where the various teams occur to me as the broader configurations of networks we can engage in.

My plan for the next two weeks is to really step back with new members of our team and encourage their leadership with initiatives related to what we’re doing, and for me to explore what peripherality might mean. I’m really thinking about the following Wenger quote: ““When a community makes learning a central part of its enterprise, useful wisdom is not concentrated at the core of its practice. There is a wisdom of peripherality – a view of the community that can be lost to full participants,” (p. 216). For this challenge, I’m going to support my teammates’ planning for our activities with the broader college, and I’m going to support this work by not focusing on event/programming planning, but instead find other colleagues in our broader network, those who might be at the periphery of what we’re trying to do, and get their perspectives and learn from them. Then I’ll be able to bring this knowledge and learning back to our team to incorporate into their planning.

Step 4: Implement and reflect

So it turns out that the question How can I positively influence my CoP through participation in “broader configurations” of networks? was meant for LdC #3 starting next week. However, I think this round of LdC was good, because it primed some of my own thinking about peripherality within my own team, whereas next week’s LdC can be about networks beyond my team.

It just so happened over these past few weeks that we did some intentional team-building that gave me lots of opportunity to listen and learn. I think one of the big challenges for me that these few weeks revealed is that I really need to listen – and take to heart – what I hear from my teammates and those around me. I discovered that most of my team is far more concerned with concrete task orientation and clarity around roles, responsibilities and outcomes than I am. And I learned that I’m much more likely to want control or direction in our work than most of my peers. I think we had productive dialogue that will ultimately enhance my ability to lead, but I know that I still have work to do.

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