Our Pop-Up Community of Practice

The lifespan of community of practice moves through a series of predictable and overlapping phases: identifying questions or issues, recruiting community members, learning and sharing, implementing changes in practice, and reflecting on and sharing results.
The Community of Practice Life Span. Developed by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC). CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

The opportunity to collaborate with Sue Doner (Instructional Designer; CETL @ Camosun College) and Ruth Fraser (Director; Services for Students with Disabilities @ KPU) on an accessibility session during the 2018 Festival of Learning came about by reaching out to Sue at an Open Education event last year to share my interests in Universal Design for Learning; I never imagined that a simple introduction could transform into something so fulfilling and meaningful! 

Our intimate session allowed for collegial exchanges of personal stories and experiences relating to ensuring accessibility to a diversity of learners in an online learning environment. We were able to draw upon one another’s knowledge and expertise, examine our own blindspots, and begin to identify important considerations and approaches when grappling with accessibility concerns in an online learning environment. There was an open invitation to our participants at the end of this brief session: to continue to engage with one another beyond this pop-up community of practice and to nurture the connections that we created here.

I am looking forward to see how this pop-up community of practice take shape with time and to learn how we help shift the conversation around accessibility in higher education one baby-step at a time!

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ― Mother Teresa

You may find a copy of our session plan. Please reach out to share your thoughts and become a member of our pop-up community of practice!

Reflections: identifying gaps and emerging ideas

I thoroughly enjoyed myself during the Institute Facilitation Workshop – it was good fun to facilitate and to connect with our Institute Facilitators in person!

Overall, I think the workshop went well and met the Institute Facilitators’ practical needs in developing a more robust workshop plan for their sessions in the upcoming Spring Institute. Many Institute Facilitators were appreciative of the structured opportunity to draft, revise, and receive feedback from their peers on the workshop plan. Feedback has long been recognized as a vital requirement for professional development with aims to support  practitioners develop new skills and integrate them into practice (Joyce & Showers, 1982). Through modelling effective facilitation practices during the workshop, I was glad to observe that all of them were grappling with various factors while (re-)designing their sessions and were willing to experiment with new techniques in their facilitation practices! Fine tuning this aspect of the workshop would be worthwhile to support Institute Facilitators, especially for those who are new, in developing well-aligned interactive workshop plans. This professional development workshop for the Institute Facilitators has the potential to become an essential component of quality assurance for sessions offered at the CTLT Institutes. I am hopeful for active integration and change implementation in their workshops during the Spring Institute, where they will be able to receive specific feedback from their participants and have the opportunity to debrief their facilitation experiences with me.

By geralt via Pixabay. Public Domain.

In the feedback received, an emerging theme spoke to Institute Facilitators’ desire to share stories, to gain insights from others’ experiences, and to belong to a community of facilitators.  Their needs in sharing personal facilitation experiences – both spectacular failures and triumphant successes – went unmet with the informal, unstructured format provided before and after the workshop. I’d imagine a more structured opportunity, perhaps in the format of the World Cafe, would offer a safe and inviting space for the Institute Facilitators to connect and to learn from one another. Not to mention, providing these opportunities for the Institute Facilitators to connect would be in alignment with Guskey’s recommendations (2002) in creating more sustainable behavioural changes! I’m eager to initiate this process and have the Institute Facilitators design and shape their community of practice!

References:

Developing the Institute Facilitators

“The crucial point is that it is not the professional development per se, but the experience of successful implementation that changes teachers’ attitudes and beliefs.” – Thomas R. Guskey (2002)

CTLT Institutes invite practitioners – faculty, staff, and graduate students – to share their insights, best practices, lessons learned, and actionable approaches with our teaching and learning community, with goals to bring about incremental yet impactful changes to enhance student learning and experiences.

Traditionally, the support offered to Institute Facilitators primarily focused on workshop logistics. Occasionally, consultations re: workshop development and alignment were available at request.

Apart from resource considerations, I think that the lack of professional development support for our Institute Facilitators was a manifestation of an unexamined assumption: these educational leaders, given their vast experiences in the classroom, know how to support their peer’s professional development needs. It seems inconsistent and unreasonable to expect our Institute Facilitators to effectively develop our workshop participants without providing any professional development opportunities for them. Therefore, I developed a facilitation workshop for our Institute Facilitators with hopes to improve the overall quality and interactivity of workshops offered.

In order to demonstrate the desired impact of professional development to our Institute Facilitators, I incorporated Guskey’s Model of Teacher Change (Figure 1) in the following ways:

  1. At the Institute Facilitation Workshop, Institute Facilitators will develop strategies in anticipation for common facilitation challenges in the context of CTLT Institutes and identify ONE tangible change to implement in their upcoming workshop,
  2. During the Spring Institute, Institute Facilitators have the opportunity to actionize the stated change in their facilitation practice and to observe the impact on their participants, and
  3. The Institute Facilitators will be asked to complete a summative feedback form, with specific questions that invite reflection around their process and experience in implementing the stated change (or not).

This is a pilot “experiment” on the level of our Institute Facilitators – it is important to identify effective professional development activities to create enduring changes in “the professional practices, beliefs, and understanding of school persons toward an articulated end” (Grifin, 1983, p. 2). My ultimate goal is to make this Institute Facilitation Workshop an integral part of all CTLT Institutes, so that it’ll serve as at least one embedded mechanism to provide continual follow-up, support, and pressure (Guskey, 2002) for our Institute Facilitators’ ongoing educational improvement. Hopefully, the feedback collected from this process may help inform how best to support our participants in sustainably improving and changing their  teaching practices.


References:

  • Griffin, G. A. (1983) Introduction: the work of staff development, in: G. A. GRIFFIN (Ed.) Staff Development, Eighty-Second Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press).
  • Guskey, T. R. (2002) Professional Development and Teacher ChangeTeachers and Teaching: theory and practice. 8: 381-391.