Educator Development, Global Education
Communities of Practice – Virtual learning and collaboration opportunities
Teachers rarely get opportunities for reflection and collaboration with others outside their grade level or departmental team. The term “community of practice” (CoP) was first introduced by Etienne Wenger, an education practitioner and scholar who described CoPs as “groups of people who share a passion for something that they know how to do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better.” Virtual CoPs provide an opportunity for educators to connect around similar topics, passions, and areas of expertise. There are communities of practice for many subjects, but teachers in our Participate Learning programs benefit from communities designed specifically for global educators and dual language educators. At Participate Learning, there are three main benefits of using a community of practice:
Encourages information and knowledge sharing
Teachers are often looking to exchange ideas and stay fresh by gaining new perspectives from others. Virtual communities of practice serve as a meeting place that can be joined at any time, from anywhere in the world. Facilitated discussions ask thought-provoking questions to generate open conversations between members. The act of sharing what works well and what doesn’t can bring opportunities for growth and innovation in the classroom, empowering educators to try new things.
Teachers in our dual language and global school programs benefit from the knowledge sharing that happens in each CoP. It provides a meaningful extension to the in-person professional development that happens at the beginning of each school year. Resource pages and discussions are spaces for educators to share helpful tools and best practices that work. For example, teachers within our middle school Spanish program, Conexiones, have access to specific curriculum resources and collaborate regularly through discussions to discuss ways to improve student outcomes.
“Communities of practice give me a feeling of belonging. I love connecting with my colleagues. I have learned so much. The ideas and resources shared are super helpful.” – Ava-Gaye Blackford
Allows instant feedback and collaboration
Within communities of practice, there are also time-bound learning experiences developed to foster learning and connection. Time-bound learning experiences, or learning that occurs in quick bursts and utilizes blended-learning approaches, helps participants achieve their specific learning objectives. The experiences encourage engagement and a sense of belonging with a group of individuals with a shared interest and passion.
As adult learners, we are looking for ways to ask questions, to learn, and to share our expertise. Participating in a discussion about favorite technology tools, or go-to global lesson plans, provides an opportunity to troubleshoot with others and collaborate together. Connecting educators with diverse learning experiences can create a lasting impact on teacher practice and student learning. This direct and authentic engagement between adult learners, when combined with opportunities to solve real problems, can increase leadership and confidence.
Connects educators from around the world
Many of our cultural exchange teachers are adjusting to the American education system for the first time. As part of their orientation week, teachers get professional development time to learn and share information that serves as a foundation in their classrooms. After their initial orientation training ends, they are eager to support each other through the challenges of the first few months. Facilitated discussions among passionate educators can create a lasting impact on teacher practice and student learning. Joining a community of practice can also be motivating for new teachers because it allows them to learn from the experiences of others. One of our teachers recently commented,
“The Designing Cultural Activities experience, I believe, is the way forward in a time where networking and shared experiences is critical to enhance and build a diverse global community.”
Our teachers are part of a global community of passionate educators who are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice. The exchange of ideas within a supportive discussion space fosters creativity and growth, and helps to form lasting bonds between teachers. Why wait for an annual conference or professional development day to have these opportunities? Virtual discussions and collaborative learning can fit into busy teacher schedules, and can happen much more frequently within a community of practice.
We believe that fostering connection and learning for our teachers is the foundation for uniting the world through global education. Find out more about our teachers and the competitive advantage of our programs here.