Evolution Of An On-Line Education Community Of Practice


Schlager, M. S., Fusco, J., & Schank, P. (2002). Evolution of an on-line education community of practice. In K. A. Renninger and W. Shumar (Eds.), Building virtual communities: Learning and change in cyberspace. NY: Cambridge University Press, 129-158.


[Teachers] have no time to work with or observe other teachers; they experience occasional hit-and-run workshops that are usually unconnected to their work and immediate problems of practice. [Effective professional development cannot] be adequately cultivated without the development of more substantial professional discourse and engagement in communities of practice. — Darling-Hammond & Ball (1997)

One important role for technologies is as the backbone for an invigorated, vibrant professional community among educators. This will not happen, however, without considerable effort to design the technologies and the social structure of their use with this objective made explicit. — Hawkins (1996)

The concept of community of practice has become a major theme of teacher professional development (TPD) research and practice. Advocates argue that communities of practice (CoPs) can be powerful catalysts for enabling teachers to improve their practice (Lieberman, 1996; Rényi, 1996). A growing body of TPD policy research (e.g., LoucksHorsley, Hewson, Love, & Stiles, 1998; Darling-Hammond & Ball, 1997) is beginning to converge on a common set of effective professional development characteristics that stem largely from CoP concepts. For example, Lieberman’s (1996; Lieberman & McLaughlin, 1995) research on teacher networks builds on CoP concepts of social networks (Wellman, 1997) and community gathering place (Oldenburg, 1997). Lieberman (1996) describes how informal retreats and dinner meetings help build professional relationships and socialize new members into the fold, thereby solidifying teachers’ commitment to the community.

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