Reflections on Communities of practice 15.11.10


“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…” (Wenger 2006)

  • · When does a group become a learning group?

This occurs when a group is brought together with an aim or goal which they can achieve by working together as individuals but also as a team. They may meet regularly (like an after school club) or just once (like a one off drama workshop), and may use a wide variety of learning techniques appropriate to their subject. The members of the group must be motivated enough to focus on the goal and the learning process that allows them to achieve it; the activities they carry out help them progress and learn as they draw nearer to the goal. For an example, I played in a symphony orchestra concert last Friday night, which was the culmination or goal of many arduous hours of rehearsal and practice, and the members of the symphony orchestra could be called a community of practice, as we all joined together to learn the pieces and perform them to the best of our abilities.

  • · Is it possible for a group to make its own way of learning?

Since all individuals will be unique in their learning styles, it is likely that no two groups will have the same way of learning.  However, communities of practice that focus on various different areas such as drama, music, or academic subjects will probably have similar methods which they will use in different combinations, for example, in an orchestra, rehearsals with others in the orchestra lead by a conductor are the most common form of learning.

Sometimes, learning styles are categorised using different psychological models. A common one is Fleming’s VARK model, which identified 4 types of learner:

1.      visual learners;

2.      auditory learners;

3.      reading/writing-preference learners;

4.      kinesthetic learners or tactile learners[1].

This allows learning to focus on the different strengths of the individual once their learning style has been identified.

  • · Can documenting children’s learning lead to new ways of learning?

This is an interesting question, as it asks whether documentation can be used as a part of learning. In my opinion, it can, as recording all the different ways of learning can itself be a way of learning: learning how people learn (see the types of learning above). But documentation can also make the learning process more transparent, so if I child is unsure about how to learn something, writing down the ways that he/she approaches the problem may help apply these learning skills to future tasks, as the documentation can be consulted. The kind of reflective journal that this blog forms is definitely a new form of learning for me, and a very helpful one, as it something that is created gradually over the year and is made up of small learning experiences which I document and reflect on, but which build up into a larger whole.

  • · What helps me to learn skills for community music?

In community music, I have found that I learn best through practical experience – by doing, rather than reading about something then having to do it. It is only through the hands on experience of being in the classroom with the kids that I learnt the things I have described above, like trying to appear confident in what you are doing even when you’re not, and lots of encouragement and energy, which might seem obvious to some people but it’s not until you actually try to do it that you realise how important it is.  Because of my preference for experiential learning, I have a feeling that out of the categories above, I am probably a ‘kinaesthetic’ or ‘tactile learner’.

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One thought on “Reflections on Communities of practice 15.11.10

  1. Jeremy

    Hi Jess, this is great, but as you perhaps know there is considerable dispute over whether the learning styles mentioned above are real, and therefore how important they are in educational practice. Eg. the American Psychological socoiety last year commissioned an extensive review by a panel of 4 impartial academics – if that isn’t an oxyomoron – who concluded: “At present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice. Thus, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices that have strong evidence base, of which there are an increasing number.” [Source: Wikipedia article on learning styles…]

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