As human beings, we seek to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Whether a family, a gaming guild, a church or a Facebook group, we all want to be part of a community. As educators, we can strengthen our practice by joining with others committed to the same common goals.
According to Seth Godin, “a tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Who is your educator tribe? Who are the other educators you have chosen to connect with regularly, to share ideas about teaching and learning, to amuse one another with stories of your students? These are the people that shape us as educators—the ones we choose to surround ourselves with.
We can create focus and intentionality in our tribe by encouraging it to form into a Community of Practice. According to Etienne Wegner, “Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” (Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B., 2015)
Communities of Practice Share 3 Common Characteristics
A Shared Interest: CoPs commit a shared interest. Membership in the CoP indicates a level of competence that distinguishes members from those outside the CoP. Community members value the expertise of others in the group and rely on one another to support ongoing growth in the area of the shared interest.
Community: Participants in the CoP engage in activities designed to grow their expertise in their shared interest. They share resources, experiences, and help one another problem-solve. It is the interactions of the community around the shared interest that makes it a CoP.
Practice: A CoP requires that the participants be practitioners of the shared interest. The group members develop shared resources through their experiences and stories. They develop their craft by practicing and problem-solving with others who are also practitioners of the craft.
Establishing a Community of Practice
A CoP may be established through a formal process. For example, teachers in your school attend training about literacy strategies. As a follow-up to the training, the principal establishes an online forum for teachers to communicate with one another as they apply the learning to their classrooms.
Alternatively, CoPs may develop informally. As teachers share common concerns and challenges in their classrooms, a shared need for learning in a certain area may emerge. A CoP establishes a commitment to learning together to solve their problems.
Whether formal or informal, three common structures will support the success of your CoP.
A clear purpose. Together define why you are establishing a CoP and determine the outcomes you hope to achieve.
An identified moderator. The moderator should be a respected member of the community and have knowledge in the subject area to be discussed. The role of the moderator is to guide discussions during meetings and help keep the group focused on the purpose.
Regular meetings. A CoP meets regularly whether in person or through online communications sharing resources, experiences and exchanging feedback.
S²TEM Centers SC Cognitive Coaching Community of Practice
Since 2006, Amy Threatt and I have been facilitating the Cognitive Coaching℠ Foundations course for instructional leaders around our state. We recently realized that over 1000 participants have completed the course under our leadership. What a perfect opportunity to establish a Cognitive Coaching℠ Community of Practice!
The Cognitive Coaching℠ Community of Practice is open to any participants who have completed the Cognitive Coaching Foundations Seminar through S²TEM Centers SC, and will be located on our Facebook page. Participants will engage in conversations about their coaching practice, will receive tips and hints for refining their practice, and will have access to special training opportunities. If you are a S²TEM Centers Cognitive Coaching “graduate”, request access at https://www.facebook.com/groups/460671391388766/
As the new year begins, commit to a Community of Practice. Whether is be through S²TEM Centers SC or on your own. Find a group of other people with similar challenges and learning goals and get started!