The challenges of building an academic community of practice: an Australian case study

McDonald, Jacquelin and Star, Cassandra (2008) The challenges of building an academic community of practice: an Australian case study. In: 31st HERDSA Annual Conference: Engaging Communities (HERDSA 2008), 1-4 July 2008, Rotorua, New Zealand.

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While the concept of learning communities is now widely known and generally endorsed in higher education, there are significant challenges in relation to their implementation within the current Australian higher education context. We argue that a community of practice model proposed by Wenger (1998) can provide a framework for the building of successful academic communities of practice. The model contains three fundamental elements - a domain of knowledge that creates a common ground and sense of common identity, a community of people who care about the domain and create the social fabric of learning, and a shared practice that the community develops to be effective in its domain. In this case study the community provides a location for individual academics to focus on teaching and learning against a background of tensions in the current Australian higher education environment. In addition, communities of practice create a space for safe reflection on practice, as the challenges of mass education, such as increasing diversity in student cohorts, are best met by collaborative effort. Communities of practice provide a context for sustained professional conversations around identified domain and practice issues. This paper presents a discussion of the application of Wenger’s model in an academic community, and the challenges and successes of that process to inform the implementation of communities of practice in the Australian tertiary context.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright © 2008: McDonald, J & Star, C. The authors assign HERDSA and educational non-profit institutions a non-exclusive license to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive right to HERDSA to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web (prime sites and mirrors) on CD and in printed form within the HERDSA 2008 conference proceedings. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the authors
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - School of Accounting, Economics and Finance
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2008 03:06
Last Modified: 25 May 2012 05:50
Uncontrolled Keywords: community of practice model, higher education, academic professional development
Fields of Research : 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education

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