TEL 703-711

TEL 703/711: LdC #4

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

Provocative Question #4:

How can my behaviors shape my action research study to be a COLLABORATIVE action research study?

Step 1: Prepare for a conversation

Quote/ideas from the book; applications/instances from your workplace setting Page number
“We are all engaged in the pursuit of a socially meaningful enterprise, and our learning is in the service of that engagement. Our communities of practice then become resources for organizing our learning as well as contexts in which to manifest our learning through an identity of participation. What is crucial about this kind of engagement as an educational experience is that identity and learning serve each other,” (p. 271). 271
“A community of practice, for instance, is at once both a community and an economy of meaning. The definition of a joint enterprise brings the community together through the collective development of a shared practice,” (p. 209) 209
“Negotiability allows us to make meanings applicable to new circumstances, to enlist the collaboration of others, to make sense of events, or to assert our membership,” (p. 197) 197
“The concept of practice connotes doing, but not just doing in and of itself. It is doing in a historical and social context that gives structure and meaning to what we do. In this sense, practice is always social practice,” (p. 47). 47
“…meaning is always the product of its negotiation, by which I mean that it exists in this process of negotiation. Meaning exists neither in us, nor in the world, but in the dynamic relation of living in the world,” (p. 54). 54
“We all have our own theories and ways of understanding the world, and our communities of practice are places where we develop, negotiate, and share them,” (p. 48). 48
Example from my team: we have recently begun to tweak the operations to our weekly team meetings, where we share interesting and useful resources we have found – from design processes to facilitation tips to keyboard shortcuts on the Mac.

Step 2: Hold a conversation

  • R: It was a struggle to make connections, but I have some quotes I like. I think my connections to the workplace are strong, and one of the things I’m learning / reflecting on is that during my first time in the program, I didn’t do as good a job that I’m sharing what I’m working on. I’m doing that better, and it is really helping me because I’m making my work better.
    • J: what do you think is contributing to that?
    • R: I think it’s me, because I’m identifying a problem of practice that isn’t isolating me and is useful. Ultimately, I make a lot of decisions and have lots of people reporting to me – and I’ve done a better job of sharing openly what I’m doing and others are recognizing it as the work
    • M: p. 126…social structure reflects…
  • Z: When I got started, I had lots of help from the people I work with, and it’s helping us reorganize what we’re doing…
  • R: Organic is the word that comes to mind…it’s really important, especially as it comes to mind.
  • J: 197 – negotiability allows us…Negotiability allows us to make meanings applicable to new circumstances, to enlist the collaboration of others, to make sense of events, or to assert our membership.
  • B: Collaboration…
  • R: Does that collaboration support your action research as well?
  • R: 243: communities of practice are the locus of real work…
  • Z: “Engagement is not just a matter ofAs a context for learning, engagement is not just a matter of activity, but of community building, inventiveness, social energy, and emergent knowledgeability. To support these processes, an infrastructure of engagement should include facilities of mutuality, competence, and continuity,” (p. 237)
  • B: social energy follow-up
  • R: so I’m hearing that we’re all kind of addressing similar kinds of collaboration, but I hear 3 different kinds: collaboration that work is initiating for participants; collaboration you’ve done with others to support your PoP; collaboration that we’re doing with immediate colleagues;
    • J: and collaboration in broader configurations of networks
    • M: Collaboration extends beyond our own COPs….and I’ve walked in on a conversation expecting to have a brokerage conversation, but I wound up brokering the boundaries rather than the conversation itself.

Step 3: Determine your leadership challenge

For this leadership challenge, I’m going to explore how I might include my teammates more in this dissertation process. Something R shared during the fishbowl was that they found that in a previous attempt completing the EdD program, they kept a lot of this work close to them and internal, away from their teammates. As they said that, I found myself thinking that I’ve approached the first few months of this program in the same way.

So for this challenge, I’m going to share my problem of practice more, and particularly the theories I’m thinking about and using. One of the areas where I know my team could collaborate more is around the area of having a shared vision for what we do, including the practices and tools we use.

Step 4: Implement and reflect

I think this was the best LdC yet for me, in terms of really going to the team and working to build a community of practice! I worked with my team on a new shared project and on an existing project, and asked them to critique and reflect on the process and tools we used. One of the big things that came out from the tools was that everyone on the team really liked the Headlines from the Future tool that we use to help people visualize a future outcome as well as plan for success.

In terms of research, the team really gravitated toward this whitepaper/research report from IDEO and WISE, and one person on my team shared that she was so glad she wasn’t the only one who wanted to introduce a more rigorous, research-supported approach to our team’s work.

Reflecting on what Wenger might say in response to this challenge, I think the quote from page 271, where Wenger suggests that “Our communities of practice then become resources for organizing our learning as well as contexts in which to manifest our learning through an identity of participation. What is crucial about this kind of engagement as an educational experience is that identity and learning serve each other.” As my team continues to build its identity – I am our most veteran design strategist, with a whole year of experience! – we will need to expand how we share and organize resources, as well as for how we build individual and collective identities as educators and designers who are in service toward other educators.

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