Home » Edspresso » Pre-Pandemic: ​Research into Virtual Communities of Practice(VCoP)​, Part 1

Pre-Pandemic: ​Research into Virtual Communities of Practice(VCoP)​, Part 1

(Part 1 of 3)

Pre-Pandemic: ​Research into Virtual Communities of Practice(VCoP)​

It was parent teacher night, and my daughter’s third grade teacher welcomed us to her well-decorated classroom.

More than twenty strips of paper were hung three feet above the ground and were adorned with a Facebook logo and a single statement, ​What’s on your mind?​ Students used dry-erase markers to share their daily ​social emotional​ status with the teacher and class. A gallery walk revealed a daily snapshot of the teacher’s current class climate.

The teacher went on to explain that she pulled this idea, as well as meeting some of her other professional development needs, from her ​social media​ and ​Web 2.0​ tools.

Social anthropologists, ​Lave & Wenger​ studied naturally-formed learning environments which they termed a ​community of practice​ (CoP). Like its CoP predecessor, an educational​ virtual community of practice​ (VCoP) has three(3) essential elements: community, domain, and the practice(s). Teachers (community) seek others with similar professional development needs (domain) and share teaching resources and techniques (practices).

Teachers have been naturally forming CoPs within their grade/subject-level teams. The dawn of the Internet allowed for the expansion of their CoPs to accept virtual counterparts from all over the globe. Typically, the group is solution-oriented and tends to listen to those “expert” members who have methods/resources that have been proven in the field.

Despite the natural presence of these CoPs in bringing about actual classroom-level change, few academic institutions recognize this model of professional development as a part of a teacher’s continuing education credits.

My daughter’s teacher was able to take a practice that she pulled from her VCoP and improve the educational experience for her students; she should have been granted professional development hours for her work.

As educational institutions begin to reimagine what it means to educate America’s youth, it is time to support teachers who legitimately participate in local CoPs or VCoPs to improve education at the classroom level.

Gregory M. McGough, Ed.D.
Director of Curriculum & Coordinator of Federal Programs
Columbia Borough School District

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