About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 6250-6258
Publication year: 2013
ISBN: 978-84-616-3822-2
ISSN: 2340-1117

Conference name: 5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2013
Location: Barcelona, Spain

UNDERGRADUATE COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE: HOW MAY THEY BE DESIGNED, STRUCTURED, AND IMPLEMENTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT EXPERIENCE?

S. List, J. Warland, C. Smith

University of South Australia (AUSTRALIA)
It is widely recognised that the quality of the student experience (particularly in the first year) establishes how students adjust academically, socially and emotionally to the University environment, which in turn affects their academic performance and retention. A sense of belonging and connectedness with their program and career choice are factors cited as directly related to the quality of the student experience. The difficulties of establishing these senses are exacerbated by the decreasing time that students spend on campus and increasingly choose to study entirely off campus. The reasons that some students lack engagement or leave study are not simply academic - they also cite feeling unsupported, isolated and stress as significant factors. These issues strongly impact on the student experience, and are consistently found in both on and off campus populations.
Whilst university student surveys show that formal academic student needs are being met by the accredited bachelor programs in place, students studying in all modes report that they may feel isolated and make few friends during their time at University. Informal communities are spontaneously formed face to face and online via social media to counteract these issues, but they usually lack structure and the leadership to define professional boundaries.
Learning communities such as Communities of Practice (CoPs) offer an opportunity to increase professional ‘connectedness’ and may be found in both face-to-face and online spaces or a blend of both. Communities of Practice promote improving practice and enhancing the learning of members in a supportive environment through mutually shared interests and goals. They are centred on concern and deep collaboration around practice and are embedded in the concept that people learn better in a socially networked environment with a focus on knowledge sharing. Members share a Vygotsky based apprenticeship-style interaction between an expert and novice, whereby less experienced members are inducted into the profession. Undergraduate education may be viewed as in intellectual apprenticeship, and therefore a CoP would be likely to support this transformation from student to practicing evaluator.
Bryk and Schneider (2002) cite James Coleman’s theory of social capital as fundamental to the success of learning communities. They determined that learning communities build trust and that this affects student engagement and learning because vulnerability is reduced and students become more willing to engage in public problem solving which is a cornerstone of effective, active student learning and midwifery practice. Despite this knowledge of CoPs, there is little in the literature as to their use in the undergraduate space, how best they may be structured and facilitated, or what benefits they may provide. Therefore an investigation to determine the theoretical and practical roles of undergraduate CoPs is appropriate, and the structural and practical issues of developing and implementing one for a cohort of Midwifery students using McDonald et al’s (2012) nurtured/supported model is reported in this paper.

References:
Bryk A, and Schneider B. 2002. Trust in schools. New York: Russell Sage.
McDonald J, Star C, Burch T, Cox M, Nagy J. and Margetts, F. 2012. Final report: Identifying, building and sustaining leadership capacity for communities of practice in higher education. Office of Learning and Teaching, Australia.
@InProceedings{LIST2013UND,
author = {List, S. and Warland, J. and Smith, C.},
title = {UNDERGRADUATE COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE: HOW MAY THEY BE DESIGNED, STRUCTURED, AND IMPLEMENTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT EXPERIENCE?},
series = {5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN13 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-3822-2},
issn = {2340-1117},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {1-3 July, 2013},
year = {2013},
pages = {6250-6258}}
TY - CONF
AU - S. List AU - J. Warland AU - C. Smith
TI - UNDERGRADUATE COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE: HOW MAY THEY BE DESIGNED, STRUCTURED, AND IMPLEMENTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT EXPERIENCE?
SN - 978-84-616-3822-2/2340-1117
PY - 2013
Y1 - 1-3 July, 2013
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN13 Proceedings
SP - 6250
EP - 6258
ER -
S. List, J. Warland, C. Smith (2013) UNDERGRADUATE COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE: HOW MAY THEY BE DESIGNED, STRUCTURED, AND IMPLEMENTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT EXPERIENCE?, EDULEARN13 Proceedings, pp. 6250-6258.
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