Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Mind Lab Week 19 - CoP

Communities of Practice (CoP)
In my current role I have found collaborating regularly in a community of diverse people/thinkers drawn together by a common interest or focus, to be imperative. Wenger, McDermott & Snyder (2002, p4) define CoP's as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis”

In her presentation on blended learning, Sharon Padget shares this graphic to demonstrate the varying roles one might have in a CoP and how these change over time, depending on factors like the needs of the CoP, your level of comfort with participation, level of experience, etc. 

The Core are: the subject matter experts, show leadership, direct the vision of the CoP.
The Contributors are: the informal leaders, develop content, participate regularly, moderate with feedback.
The Collaborators are: those with self-selected involvement, support the CoP through questioning and making suggestions, increase their own understandings on the subject or focus.
The Consumers are: the general audience, they read, watch or listen regularly, try out the ideas presented, are exposed to new ideas and to how a CoP works.

When I first moved from a classroom teacher role, with  leadership responsibilities for planning teams and Mathematics, the first thing I had to do was to engage with new on-line Communities of Practice. My current role as a specialist teacher of Visual Art and Digital Media for Kindy to Y6 has a very different focus and as the novice, I had a lot of new learning to absorb.
I went from a regular contributor to CoP's for Literacy, Mathematics and Inquiry based pedagogies, and with in-school planning teams, to a lurker/consumer in new on-line groups.
I am very grateful to the leaders of these groups who got me up and running a lot quicker than I would have managed otherwise. There is limited scope for collaboration in specialist areas within a school. For that I have had to attend conferences and visit other schools with specialist art teachers (very few in NZ).
By participating in relevant CoP's, I have been exposed to alternative pedagogies in teaching the arts which has lead to further research, helping me to take my students so much further than I could have done on my own.

The two questions I am considering are based on observations of my students following adjustments made to my practice based on research about TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behaviour), Choice Based Art and Guided Inquiry models. These link in that they both borrow from the flipped learning model.

1) How can I use blended learning to improve engagement and achievement for target children
I noticed that some students find choice based learning and the ideation process challenging, even confusing. They achieve better (feel more confident) with the 'Show me' model and need gentle guiding toward 'Let me do it for myself'.
For them, I want to look at compiling past lesson resources into digital guide books to refer to, with the aim of combining these with more and more of their own ideas, as they grow in confidence. In the past I have written many lesson guides for teachers, so I could start by adapting these.
Creating a large and visible running sheet of ideation strategies that we add to each time we come up with another way to get ideas, could be beneficial for students too.

2) How can I promote student agency from Kindy -Y6?
While most conferences in a choice based learning environment are specific to a student, I do find myself repeating certain concepts or techniques multiple times. I have been thinking about creating short, sharp movie clips that answer these questions and loading them to a central cloud-based location for students to access independently, Then they can review skills and techniques from week to week, even year to year, as they need to. Despite looking for such resources on-line, I have not yet found anything suitable.
This resource will further enhance other changes I have already made to support independence in my classroom and possibly be of worth to share across my school to support classroom teachers in their practice. Who knows, maybe even shared globally through on-line CoP's.
Having already created and shared videos for teachers (like this one below), this is a new aspect I am looking forward to.
Help Me Learn Video Tutorials on You Tube


Padget, S. (2013). aealearningonlinlive.Retrieved on November 28, 2017 from

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
With love, as always

Thank you for visiting,


  1. Hi Timea, a very interesting blog article. And beautifully presented as always! I like the diagram, and particularly the labels like "Lurker". I was aware of that term being used on social media (along with labels like "stalker"!) but wasn't really aware of its application to Communities of Practice. However it makes sense, and of course Social and CoP networks share many characteristics.
    What made me think though, was the part about...
    "The Core are: the subject matter experts, show leadership, direct the vision of the CoP."
    I have been an HOD for years, but never considered myself an "Expert" on either curriculum or pedagogy. However now I am seeing that I have to basically step up and become that person, or else I am not fulfilling my role properly

  2. Hi Nigel, thank you for your thoughts. Remember that Wenger et al define a CoP as forming around a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, whereas an HOD is an appointment with management and administrative responsibilities. I don't personally see my in-school arts team or team leader as my CoP for Visual Art, as our passions are divergent. Within your planning team it may be someone else that drives the CoP around a passion or inquiry, not necessarily the HOD. Your personal passion based CoP may be elsewhere too. Of course there is nothing stopping you from turning your team into a CoP around team relevant issues or passions.
    Good Luck with it all :)

  3. A very good point. However what I've reflected on in my my most recent post is that I would like to see my dept become more of a CoP, rather than just an administrative unit. I think the aspect of shared learning has largely been missing, and I would like to foster its development.

  4. Timea really connected with your comments as a specialist teacher myself specialising in foods and fabric in a large intermediate school. I teach mixed ability classes and was wondering if the flipped blended model could be used for my more capable students. Would love to share ideas.

  5. Hi Helen, Thank you for connecting up. I have also recently connected with a teacher in the States through one of the Face book groups (CoPs) I belong to. She too, wants to explore this avenue so we aim link up through on-line media and possibly watch each others lessons through Skype. Happy to discuss further as we work through the next assignment. My first task next week is to interview my classes and ask them about what was challenging for them in the Choice based learning model and what help they would seek and what resources they would find most helpful in helping them progress onto the next stage of their personal work or to extend their design thinking.
    Based on where this leads to, I will find/make suitable flipped resources for them to access independently. Then the follow up interviews should be interesting at the end of next term.

  6. Hi Timea,
    You strike a chord with me when you talk about the videos to be shared. That is the beginning of flip-learning. I am sure once you do a few of them, you will find more time in class for student's individual learning as most will be coming to class with prior learning. I am also working on some video lessons which would be given as preparation for a new unit, especially in my senior classes. it will be interesting to see how it works in your case with the junior classes. Couple of suggestions - try to get the parent/caregivers involved as well, because students of that age will be better helped at home with some support from them. Also, try using time-lapse mode while recording and a bit of voice over to make the videos shorter as well as clearer for the young learners. It has been suggested by experts in flip learning that to strengthen the relationship with your class, it is better if you are seen/heard in the video as well.

    Have a wonderful Christmas with your family.

  7. Hi Manish, thank you for your thoughts about how to improve the videos that I plan to make. I will definitely use your ideas. With the Seesaw app I can connect through to parents for support so will try that too. Will mostly use as blended learning model in class as well. Tell me, which on-line hosting site do you use for collating your videos so that your students can easily access them?

    1. YouTube is my preferred platform as ours is a Google school and all students have a Google account with their school email. As I use EdPuzzle with Google classroom, it integrates seamlessly with YouTube and is good for the Flip model.

  8. Hi Timea, a beautifully presented blog, I can certainly see why you are now driving the Visual Arts initiative within your school. I guess it is true that a picture says more than a thousand words. Did I see that your school is going BYOD or is it already a BYOD school; I ask because access and habits formed using Digital tools should help support your move towards the "flipped classroom". It is my intention to try to use the flipped model within a practical environment (Read 1960's woodwork), but after reflecting on my Year 11's mixed reaction to the online resource I tried during Term 4; I will now target my junior classes in an attempt to establish new habits. Keep up the great work and good luck with the remaining Mind Lab tasks.
    Andy D.

    1. Hi Andy, Students from Y4 up all are BYOD with iPads in the junior school and laptops thereafter. The K-3 share class iPads usually 1 between 2-3 kiddies. I have many challenges to deal with around poorly maintained devices, bad habits etc, but having first been a classroom teacher for many years and doing a 4 year stint as a teachers of digital classes before BYOD, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. In my specialist programme, flipped didn't work, so I am moving to the blended (hybrid) model a mixture of in class face time and purposeful digital tools. A US teacher in one of my CoL groups suggested that I could try learner guides as a motivation tool for the students to communicate my expectations ensure that they complete requirements. Will give that a try in my final assignment.

    2. Hi Andy,
      Because I don't have my own class and our primary school has a 'no homework' policy, flipped won't work in my case. Blended learning is a great way for me to 'split myself' around the room as my students all work on personal projects in a highly differentiated programme, thereby working on different skills and presenting with different needs at different times. By having on-line learning objects that they can view before moving forward in their area, they don't need to wait for me to conference. This way I focus on independence and problem solving, explicitly praising students when they have found their own solutions by the time I get to them.
      Its also a great way to review prior learning and skills as they cycle through from K-6. For my final assessment I was going to look at building the on-line site and looking at how it will impact those skills of independence and problem solving but things changed here and my SLT asked me to pursue staff PL by expanding the principles of my differentiated programme into classrooms. So I am looking at how effective can PL be in changing the existing practise of classroom teachers in teacher directed lessons. Not sure if I did the right thing changing but it is a real, authentic investigation and more valuable to me at this point. I will continue with the blended learning when my Y5,6 students start up in T2.

    3. Hi Timea,
      Thank you again for clarifying your attempt at the flipped classroom model. Developing independent learners is a fantastic thing, especially with your age range.
      I agree with your decision to change direction with your Inquiry assignment. Time is our most valuable asset, at least working on a real initiative, especially one that involves a major culture shift from your staff. So the time spent on your Pro Dev will give real responses for your assessment. I guess the plan you create for the staff PD will be able to be submitted to TML, might allow you to use John Cotter's Eight Step Change Model.
      This site might help:
      Good luck
      Andy D

    4. Thank you Andy for the Kotter model, yes that will be helpful to track the implementation and reflect against. I have just completes step 4 and working now on step 5. As it doesn't directly link to my lit review but rather to all the learning I have done over the year with TML, who knows whether it will meet the assignment criteria. Too late now as it's been submitted but was great to have the opportunity to reflect and write a proper plan for this innovation and it has helped me to build confidence and skill with what I am delivering.
      All the best :)

    5. Hi Timea, I'm glad the link to Kotter helped in some way. Its been a pleasure blogging with you and well done for submitting your assignment.
      Andy D.

  9. Hi All, I prepared my lesson one on google slides and offered to my students prior to the lesson hoping to accelerate the more able students. Few took it up so I then tried a variation of the flipped lesson during the class with some success. Next year I hope to build on this using a more interactive video clip like edpuzzle. For my literature review I'm looking for something on flipped learning to enable me to better differentiate between my learners. However after doing some reading I am seeing that one of my underlying problems is motivating my students to challenge themselves. My more capable students are often quite happy just coasting along doing the practical work they enjoy and not delving deeper into problem solving. I was interested in Andy's reference to Read 1960's woodwork? What is it?

    1. Hi Helen, may I clarify my comment, 'read 1960s woodwork". it's a saying that came from my University days when we were applying design-based technology in the UK. it was an attempt to describe my current practice with a Yr11 Construction class. They're all making the same outcome, a set of wooden steps, with no scope for design. As in the practical classes of the 1960s.
      Sorry for any confusion, it's not a text book.
      Andy D.