Introduction and Aim
The University of Tasmania's Communities of Practice Initiative (CoPI) was launched in 2011 to support collaborative professional learning opportunities and to enhance institutional learning and change in priority and special interest areas in learning and teaching. The CoPI is intended to encourage and reward excellence in learning and teaching, and to recognise the unqualified commitment of the University to the creation and maintenance of a learning and teaching culture of the highest standard.
Both grass-roots and strategic priority communities of practice (CoP) are supported through the initiative, allowing focus areas to be determined both by policies and individual staff interests. Building on the work of Etienne Wenger (1998), the CoPI requires groups of learners to identify their shared area of interest (domain); their methods of interaction and collaborative learning (community); and ways of sharing their experiences and creating new knowledge (practice). Extending on this work the CoPI also recognises the 'hidden' characteristics of a CoP identified by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (2009) - (1) motivation; (2) mandate; and (3) informal structure – recognising the need for both organic and organised learning communities to deliver on strategic priorities.
The Tasmanian Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) provides support in the establishment, facilitation and continued cultivation of each CoP, as well as dissemination of CoP learning to the broader University community. Three forms of CoPI funding are available:
- Peer Learning Circles (PLC) - up to $500 is available to bring together small groups of teaching staff to engage in collaborative development in an area of mutual interest, specifically to support the development of a small group project over one academic year. Expressions of Interest for PLCs are called for in April each year. See further information below.
- Grass Roots Communities of Practice Grants – seed funds of up to $3000, allocated as part of the Teaching Development Grant Scheme to provide the opportunity for staff from across the University to come together around a shared area of interest in learning and teaching to develop resources, contribute to policy, or contribute to scholarship. Full applications for these grants are invited in July, from Expressions of Interest, and are due in September of each year.
- Strategic CoPs – large institutional CoPs established as part of the annual TILT Teaching Fellowship around strategic priority areas in learning and teaching. Strategic CoPs are set up, and supported by the TILT Teaching Fellow. Specific funding for each fellowship is allocated to the establishment and support of these CoPs.
Peer Learning Circles
Peer Learning Circles (PLC) were established as part of Dr Kate Nash's 2013 TILT Teaching Fellowship in Peer Mentoring. The PLC program draws on research in the areas of mentoring, communities of practice, peer mentoring and faculty learning communities, to provide University staff with a flexible framework for professional development focused on shared issues in learning and teaching.
PLCs bring together small groups of between 4 and 10 staff involved in learning and teaching, to scope and deliver on a small scale project of interest in a shared focus area.
Past projects have included:
- the development of teaching portfolios;
- collaborative peer review of teaching;
- writing a SoTL publication;
- trialling innovative approaches to teaching;
- writing a Teaching Merit Certificate; and
- conducting a 360-degree curriculum review.
Each PLC must have a nominated facilitator who will liaise with TILT on the development and progress of their PLC, as well as manage the budget. Up to $500 is available for each PLC to cover basic meeting and resource costs. Up to 10 PLCs will be funded each year, depending on the range of activities proposed. One call for PLCs will be made each year.
For further information about PLCs, please contact Awards.Grants@utas.edu.au
Communities of Practice at UTAS
Expressions of Interest are now open.
Communities of Practice Resources
- Communities of Practice Reader
- Jacquie McDonald ALTC Communities of Practice Fellowship
- Jacquie McDonald Communities of Practice Facilitator Resources
- Communities of Practice Presentation - Jacquie McDonald Workshop June 2012 (PDF 1.8MB)
- Communities of Practice at UTAS: Following up on the CoP Workshop with A/Prof Jacquie McDonald (USQ) (PDF 216KB)
- Communities of Practice Presentation by DVCSE - Teaching Matters 2011 (PDF 70KB)