Wenger and Engstrom Opening Session Videos at NLC2010

The videos of the opening session with Etienne Wenger and Yrjo Engestrom from the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning are now available on the conference website.

wenger and engstrom

The video is in 2 parts – Part 1 and Part 2. It will be nice to review what happened, or otherwise see it for the first time for those colleagues who were not able to attend.

What do you think about them and their work?

Community of Practice Struggles, Part 1

Tree Looking UpI have spent the past 2 hours catching up with colleagues and (perhaps) soon to be colleagues in the CP2 Community, where there have just been 2 Research and Dissertation Fests this week (one I could attend, and one I could not), as well as on Twitter.

Between reading and chatting on Twitter about Nancy White’s amazing recipe, seeing how other people I know were doing the same, discussing ways of using social media for community building (some direct Tweets I received and replied to about this topic), reading how Lilia Efimova had an idea and how she is considering blogging about this still unformed topic as she knows the benefits (and then she finally did blog about these thoughts), not to mention my chats with Jacquie McDonald, chatting about a research idea around Communities of Practice with Etienne Wenger (who did a discussion and co-facilitated the CP2 Foundations course I recently completed), and getting other ideas from colleagues via Direct Tweets, I realize I have a lot of interests and like reaching out to this distributed community.I also like their reaching out to me.

With all this, I wonder why I struggle with consciously enlarging my own community of practice. I tend, for example, not to look for people on Twitter and Facebook, but rather process all this if “friended” first. Perhaps I do not want to be pushy? rejected? or even seem needy? Ironic, as more and more of my work is in the area of communities of practice; perhaps more of my life should be there, too?

Research Interest Clarification, 2009

phenomenologyI recently had to re- introduce myself to a colleague regarding where my current research interests are, and I thought it may be interesting to share with a wider audience, as I do get asked to explain what I am interested in (since I cannot oversimplify this, however hard I try).

One of the things I learned about myself in the module at Lancaster I just finished is just how much I love qualitative methods. Not just qualitative studies in my own content areas, but the rich methodological particulars in themselves. Yes, I couldn’t believe it when I first said that a few weeks ago – I knew I was interested in application to practice, but now find myself loving the complexities and issues around selecting, using, and assessing various qualitative methods. I can see myself really exploring this more in itself . . .

Since my background is adult education, I tend to think of myself as an adult educator. I like critical theory and constructivist frameworks, and am fond of Wenger’s Community of Practice model, as well as Jack Mezirow’s Transformative Learning framework. I am a proponent of postmodernity, and as such am interested in identity development, especially in online blogs and other forms of social media where narrative inquiry and autoethnography can be used.

Now, to see how all this can develop toward a thesis direction . . .

Communities of Practice & Learning Focus

CoPIn the Foundations of Communities of Practice (#FCoP09) workshop I am attending, I am learning a lot more about communities of practice than I expected. I was not really sure what to expect in this workshop, though I did anticipate (correctly, it seems) that I would meet a lot of interesting people, some of whom I hope become lasting colleagues.

I had a revelation over the weekend, partly due to a number of questions I asked about communities of practice (CoP) that were answered by Etienne Wenger, the CoP guru (and the one who, along with Jean Lave, coined the term). One of the things I learned in the last week is something I have heard more times than I can count about communities of practice (CoP), though it never sunk in until now.

A community of practice is primarily about learning.

This is a social learning framework, and with the 3 domains necessary for a community of practice (domain, community, practice), it seems they all contribute to the learning, whether the learning is the intentional goal or not.

I never really considered learning to be the focus of a community of practice, and this insight is now worth the price of admission for me. I finally get it . . . I now see how to accurately use this as a research framework, as well as how others have been doing this incorrectly . . .

Learning Journal Postings for PhD

reflection.jpgWhile I am busily revising my paper to meet my deadline on Wednesday, there is another assignment that begins on Thursday, one that has been an undercurrent through my work over the past 2 months — my Learning Journal. We were invited to begin consiering the question “What really matters in my professional practice?” by spending 5-10 minutes a day writing about it.

I journaled and reflected on this question with everything I write here on my blog, my public journal I share with a few colleagues and friends who are king enough to stop by and offering some thoughts from time to time.

So, after working through this paper, and thinking about our readings, I will try to draw some of these things together hereas the first step in pulling together some of what I will discuss with my cohort colleagues:

  • the excerpts we read of Donald Schon’s work were not terribly helpful for me–it seems that either people refer to Schon in ways he did not discuss, or I really need to read him more thoroughly and closely.
  • Wenger’s work with communities of practice seem to be a theoretical framework that can be applicable in a wide variety of works. I wonder, though, how organizations really use these without being manipulative (to get more work from people without more expenditures). I suppose I am wondering how these can be used and cultivated within organizations, since I have not really seen many that are organic, rather than organizationally-sponsored.
  • Laurel Richardson’s work really surprised me with how rich it is. It seems that some of my colleagues also found it and Ellis / Bochner’s work valuable, while others did not seem to be able to make heads or tails out of it. I am finding that my thesis (the UK term for dissertation) seems headed down that direction . . .
  • I am beginning to find more value in sharing and collaborating online than I ever have before. It seems my slowly-growing informal network of doctoral support is becoming increasingly valuable to me. As our current module is entitled The Development of Professional Practice, this seems ironically (and completely unexpectedly) fitting.

I am going to review some of our readings, and comment on this a bit more throughout this week.

Foundations of Communities of Practice Workshop – Tonight!

foundations of CoP So, tonight begins CPsquare’s Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop. I have thought about taking this before, but neither the time nor the funding was flowing easily, so what better time than the present?!

I will be in the capable hands of Etienne Wenger, the CoP (Communities of Practice) guru, John D. Smith, a community coach and technologist with whom I have worked before, and Bronwyn Stuckey, an educational researcher and online facilitator whose navigation of time and space amazes me. I have read about and studied CoP for some time now, though really like the idea of focusing on it as an experience in itself.

As my doctoral program at Lancaster University is focused around the CoP (network learning) model, and as my recent research uses CoPs as the theoretical framework, I thought that spending some time with colleagues who have related interests may be a good experience.

Wonder what I will learn over the seven weeks, and how my own learning framework may develop . . .

Interview Questions Based on Wenger’s CoP Framework

I begin my research interviews tomorrow, so now may be a good time to consider some of my questions, both planned as well as possible.

The purpose of the study is to examine and try to understand, in some way, if Wenger’s Community of Practice (CoP) framework makes a difference within the research or experiential lives of those who conduct autoethnographic research, especially given that many in the larger research community still see this as a contested strategy of inquiry.

While there are numerous works from Wenger that I will detail in my literature section, the two that I have in mind at this point is his

Wenger, E. (1999). Learning as social participation. Knowledge Management Review, 1(6), 30-33.

Wenger, E. (n.d.). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/communities_of_practice_intro.htm

I am being guided by Wenger’s Model (from the first article):


and from his defininition (from the second reference above):

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.

where he discusses them as (also from the second reference above):

Note that this definition allows for, but does not assume, intentionality: learning can be the reason the community comes together or an incidental outcome of member’s interactions. Not everything called a community is a community of practice. A neighborhood for instance, is often called a community, but is usually not a community of practice. Three characteristics are crucial:

1. The domain: A community of practice is not merely a club of friends or a network of connections between people. It has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people. (You could belong to the same network as someone and never know it.) The domain is not necessarily something recognized as “expertise” outside the community. A youth gang may have developed all sorts of ways of dealing with their domain: surviving on the street and maintaining some kind of identity they can live with. They value their collective competence and learn from each other, even though few people outside the group may value or even recognize their expertise.

2. The community: In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other. A website in itself is not a community of practice. Having the same job or the same title does not make for a community of practice unless members interact and learn together. The claims processors in a large insurance company or students in American high schools may have much in common, yet unless they interact and learn together, they do not form a community of practice. But members of a community of practice do not necessarily work together on a daily basis. The Impressionists, for instance, used to meet in cafes and studios to discuss the style of painting they were inventing together. These interactions were essential to making them a community of practice even though they often painted alone.

3. The practice: A community of practice is not merely a community of interest–people who like certain kinds of movies, for instance. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems�in short a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction. A good conversation with a stranger on an airplane may give you all sorts of interesting insights, but it does not in itself make for a community of practice. The development of a shared practice may be more or less self-conscious. The “windshield wipers” engineers at an auto manufacturer make a concerted effort to collect and document the tricks and lessons they have learned into a knowledge base. By contrast, nurses who meet regularly for lunch in a hospital cafeteria may not realize that their lunch discussions are one of their main sources of knowledge about how to care for patients. Still, in the course of all these conversations, they have developed a set of stories and cases that have become a shared repertoire for their practice.

The interview discussion will be informal and topics may emerge as ideas are exchanged. I hope to address (2) areas of inquiry:

1. What support or encouragement do you (or did you) have when you engage(d) in your research?

2. Do you find yourself a member of any identifiable community (of practice) that plays a role with your autoethnographic research?