Defining a Community of Practice
Wenger’s work on communities of practice makes the intreging statement ‘a tribe learning to survive’. In this we are reminded of the importance of good grammar as we considere the possibilities that different puntucation might lead t in this situation.
There is something appealing about the idea of a thinking of a community of practice as ‘a tribe learning to survive’ through change and circumstance. But, we might appreciate even more the implications of adding one small comma. ‘A tribe, learning to survive’, suggesting that survival is dependant on learning, that learning is a neccessity to the survival of a tribe.
“Communities of practice: A tribe, learning to survive” Adapted from Wegner (2015).
All in Good Time
In the post ‘Leadership in Complexity‘ we discusses the many insights shared during a local professional learning and development (PLD) day hosting Jennifer Garvey-Berger. As ‘her tribe’ explored the demands of leadership in complex environments there were regular themes that arose. One of the most predominant was the concept of time. Members of the tribe felt that they had so much to do, that they were not completing tasks to the best of thier abilities because of time contraints.
How might a ‘tribe’ in the traditional sense approach this issue? Images of Māui slowing the sun come to mind.
Thanks to Māui, from Māori legend, we now had 24 hours in the day. How is it that Māui and his brothers relished in the idea of a 24 hour day, while we proclaim it is not enough. One explanation would be that it is all relative, compare to a 4 hour day, 24 hours was excessive. But, could there be another ‘trick’ that Māui, the trickster, held up his sleave?
Individually, we all have 24 hours in a day – true. But, collectively depending on the number of persons in your tribe there may be hundreds and thousands of hours at the tribes disposal. ‘Working harder, not smarter’ is the key here.
With a united vision and common goals, communities of practice can work collaboratively and in support of each other to reach agreed outcomes much more efficiently. One way a tribe has of doing this is through digitally shared resources and forum discussions.
The Challenge of Change
In the practice of educational leadership there is a constant challenge of change. The complex school and learning systems we work within are pulled to and fro by research and reports, outcomes and goals. The community of practice braving these stormy seas faces an unpredictable future and thus must hold fast to their fellow tribesmen in attempt to stay afloat.
For as long as we can remember, systems have shown, perhaps perplexingly, a resistance to change. But, we can be inspired by the notion that change is the only constant in the universe. Jenifer Garvey-Berger asks us to consider the difference between ‘resistance’ and ‘resilience’. Both are the ability to hold your ground under situations of difficulty. But we tend to call this resilience when we like it and resistance when we don’t (Jennifer Garvey-Berger, 2016). Both of these are acting through the same force but percieved very differently.
When we are conciously aware of our perceptions we can start to understand our misconceptions. This is where again, the tribe can help. Through critical discussion of our challenges with change and the consideration of perspectives outside of our own we can move to understand the intricacies of our challenges and find solutions previously unseen.
Hitting a Moving Target
In the practice of teaching and learning we are forever faced with a moving target. In the education system that target is moving away at a pace more rapid that our current system can keep up with. The education is at one of those cricital moments where a ‘dip into complexity’ is neccessary for survival (Jennifer Garvey-Berger, 2016).
While changes are evident and shifts are being made, we are was conciously aware of scale. Sitting with fellow tribesman as they discuss these issues of change we propose that the movement is not significant enough. All good intentions aside, perhaps the small shifts allowed people to feel that they had done thier part? In this case, do many members of our tribe feel that they are no longer responsable for making the larger jumps needed?
Significant shift in the way our education system operates is needed. How should we go about creating this shift? We may not have the answers yet but with a tribe such as ours we know we will learn, to survive.