Schools after all are part of a wider community of practice- societies. Wenger’s promotion of “social learning systems” as does the need for alignment, imagination and engagement in communities of practice both site well with me (2000). Obviously we need to be working collaboratively (engagement) and appropriately (alignment) but that doesn’t mean an individual has to forgo his or her dreams (imagination). To me, it’s a question of give and take, a question of balance.
In order for a community to survive over through communication and collegial alongside individual goal-setting and reflection. To this end, I meet face-to-face with my senior managers twice a week on pedagogy & practice and once a week with a my digital and innovation team. The whole staff meets thrice-weekly for a pre-school 10 minute staff briefing, however mostly on matters of administration over learning. Once a week, all staff (including senior managers) attend one hour of in-school professional learning guided by our school-wide academic goals. The aforementioned collegial professional learning and shared school-wide goals is highly effective in ensuring that the waka is being paddled in the right direction, while allowing for some degree of individual expression & consideration.
Findlay asks us to consider the notions of reflection for action’, ‘reflection in action’ and ‘reflection on action” (p4, 2008). Although the timing of reflect varies, my personal opinion is that this is secondary to the fact that reflection to some extent is still happening. It may be sufficient at times to reflect in the moment in one learning instance while for a more sophisticated learning, it may be of benefit for the practitioner to take time and space for reflection.
The Aorere College community of practice is one where people are encouraged to “fail & reflect forward” and to utilize fit-for purpose educational technology and collaborative undertakings for student benefit. One voice is as equal as any other. In such a context, I can have multiple roles dependent on the sub-community in question. I could be a leader, coach, learner or co-facilitator regardless of my official job description and hierarchical location. This is a very fortunate position to be in as it not only ensures that distributed leadership is effectively being realised, it also enables me to utilize effective reflective practice from a range of critical locations, thus building a more holistic and arguably more authentic sense of where I’ve come from, where I am, where do I need to to head and how can I get there.
As a result, I not feel a strong sense of connectedness and sense of belonging, I also feel it is more akin to a “whanau”, a family where we all seek to support, educate and guide one another. When one feels such bonds, arguably one seeks to involve and engage more and without fear of failure. This is the case with me in this community of learning. It is logical and natural to this author that the more you feel valued, the more you want to contribute and the more, you do (often in exponentially greater quantity and quality).
Wenger comments “that “communities of practice grow out of a convergent interplay of competence and experience that involves mutual engagement” (p 229, 2000). The community growth due to mutuality and interplay makes the team ethos resonate here, that every community member has a part to play, not necessarily the same part but equal in terms of respect and need nonetheless. In this light, often such communities of practice exist outside traditional education hierarchies and silos. They exist over segmentation and status. They exist and are sustained through a commonality of thought and action towards educational practice and success. After all, doesn’t it take a village to raise a child?
Finlay, L. (2008) Reflecting on reflective practice. Retrieved from moodle.unitec.ac.nz
Knox, B.(2009, December 4). Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow.[video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhMPRZnRFkk
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246. Retrieved from moodle.unitec.ac.nz