Christopher Teeter, Nancy Fenton, Karen Nicholson, Terry Flynn, Joseph A Kim, Muriel McKay, Bridget O’Shaughnessy, and Sue Vajoczki (2011)
Using communities of practice to foster faculty development in higher education
Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, 4(52-57).
Communities of practice are becoming more widespread within higher education, yet little research has explored how these social learning networks can enhance faculty development. The focus of this paper is to describe the first-year experience of a community of practice initiative at McMaster University that was designed to engage groups of faculty, staff, and students to share ideas and foster learning. Four communities were initiated: Teaching with Technology, Teaching Professors, Pedagogy, and First Year Instructors, all of which provided a forum of safety and support, encouraging new ideas and risk taking that in turn contributed to individual and collective learning. Though in its early days, we consider communities of practice an innovative way to regenerate current learning and surface teaching practices that can build dynamic academic communities to foster faculty and staff development. Communities of practice have enabled us to reach beyond formal structures (e.g., classrooms) to create connections amongst people from different disciplinary boundaries that generate learning and foster development.