The UTAS 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 Étiene Wenger’s (1998) work, the grass-roots CoPs require 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 this into the strategic CoPs, the ‘hidden’ characteristics of a CoP identified by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (2009) also become apparent – there is (1) motivation; (2) mandate; and (3) informal structure – through their establishment based on strategic institutional priorities and the support of a dedicated TILT fellow to facilitate their work.
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 UTAS community.
There is considerable expertise in e-learning at UTAS, some of which resides in a Launceston e-learning
community, which has proved valuable for sharing of ideas and knowledge and working together informally. This
project seeks to sustain and significantly expand that CoP so that its expertise is available more broadly to UTAS staff via shared resources. The CoP also intends to host an intensive retreat as well as a workshop to up-skill e-learning support staff in audio and video production. The CoP aims to create a powerful think tank of staff working in e-learning in Faculties, TILT and ITR, and to support their collaboration. CoP members will collectively plan and exchange ideas on new developments in technology, which will foster collaborative development, producing tangible deliverables. This project will harness the power of the existing e-learning community in developing further innovative ideas and products in e-learning across UTAS. The CoP will complement the strategic direction, planning and educational support of central facilities (TILT and ITR) and the operational aspects of the University's Faculties.
Clinical Facilitators employed by UTAS on a casual basis share a common role in supporting undergraduate nursing students. The role of clinical facilitator is autonomous and recent research identified a key need to provide facilitators with the opportunity to further develop their learning and teaching skills. Late in 2011, a community of practice (CoP) was formed for acute care clinical facilitators in Southern Tasmania. The CoP is facilitated by senior facilitators who conduct education sessions based on the identified needs of the group, providing a forum for facilitators to share their practice experiences, knowledge and tools. Evaluation of the CoP identified the benefits of coming together as a group to share practice experiences and addressing issues surrounding the autonomous nature of the role. The ongoing focus for the CoP is to further develop the learning and teaching capacity and leadership skills of the clinical facilitator group. Such development will have enormous benefits for the clinical facilitators practice and also for the undergraduate student nurses, ensuring they have a quality clinical placement.
In 2012, staff from the School of Human Life Sciences (HLS) Biosciences teaching team, including School of
Medicine (SoM) staff from Hobart and HLS staff from Launceston and Sydney, met to discuss strategies to enhance their research and scholarship in learning and teaching. Our shared domain includes a passion for, and a wealth of experience in teaching bioscience and a real interest in translating this experience into research. We commit significant time and energy to our learning and teaching activities and share common interests in enhancing student experiences but limited time, skills and experience have impacted on our research output. We, and our Faculty colleagues, would greatly benefit from forming a Community of Practice (CoP) in which personal development of research skills can occur through collective learning whilst conducting collaborative learning and teaching research and implementing scholarly teaching innovations. CoP activities will include workshops and seminars to develop research skills and regular meetings to collaboratively develop, implement and reflect on projects.
With the Australian National Curriculum on the horizon for core subjects in Year 11 and 12, Senior Secondary
English teachers in Tasmania are anticipating major changes to the curricula of the courses they teach. The next three years will be an exciting and challenging time for the teaching of TCE English in Tasmania and it is imperative that UTAS English staff are aware of these changes and involved in discussions about their potential impact on the future of our discipline. TCE English is the principal feeder for UTAS English. Responses to a survey of students enrolled in first-year English in 2012 show that an overwhelming majority have completed a pre-tertiary English course and, importantly, that students transitioning from TCE English to UTAS English assume a much closer relationship between the two sectors than exists in practice. This Community of Practice will bring together TCE and UTAS English staff from across the state to build and share knowledge about the pathway between secondary and tertiary English classrooms, and open vital channels of communication for the future.
Peer Professional Learning Circles (PPLC) July 2013
The PPLC program draws on research in the areas of mentoring, communities of practice (CoP), peer mentoring and faculty learning communities, to provide UTAS staff with a flexible framework for professional development focused on shared issues in teaching and learning.
Currently thirty four staff members from a wide range of discipline backgrounds (law, business, sociology, chemistry, education, pharmacy, nursing and midwifery, library, and marine engineering are all represented) are taking part in the program.
There are four PPLC groups - two in Hobart and two in Launceston. One group on each campus has come together to create a teaching portfolio there is a group in Launceston working on a scholarship of teaching project in the area of e-learning and another group in Hobart looking at innovative teaching methods.
In exploring motivations for staff participation research to date has found evidence of a growing culture of scholarship in teaching and learning and a desire on the part of staff to connect with others in order to enhance their teaching practice.
“I am interested in learning, exploring and trialing new teaching strategies; publishing a research paper/s- hoping to meet someone to do this with?”
“The opportunity to work with my peers, potentially to innovate, to share ideas and learn from others, and possibly to research the process/outcomes”
A Community of Practice with a specific focus on student engagement will be established within the Faculty of Education. All members of the FoE community staff and students with an interest in student engagement will be invited to join. Enhancing student engagement will lead to improved student learning outcomes. These improved outcomes will be achieved through the generation and sharing of new ideas and practices. A reflective and collegial approach to unit design and development, teaching practices, and the trial of new ways of working together will be explored in the CoP. Trialling a learning conversations approach will also provide insight into ways of working within a CoP and will therefore be a methodology for learning and reflection. Documenting the process and the learning conversations approach will allow for an evaluation that will inform the CoP into the future.
With the move to fully online courses, staff have had to reconsider their approaches to unit design, teaching and learning. The ways we think about students when we do not know what they look like, when we cannot hear their voices or see their body language, needs careful consideration. How do we engage the disembodied online learner, when, as staff, we are equally disembodied? Conversely, how does our on-line teaching inform our on-campus teaching? The establishment of a community of practice will allow for collegial, reflective consideration and sharing of new ways of enhancing student learning through the ways we engage them personally, academically, intellectually, socially and professionally.
The aim of the development of a community of practice for clinically based registered nurses (known as clinical facilitators) within the UTAS nursing community is to strengthen partnerships by disseminating information; sharing of knowledge and ideas and gaining feedback that can be used to provide support and guidance to this off-campus group of educators. The project aims to link informal networks of these clinical facilitators and support peer learning within and between groups of geographically dispersed and isolated practitioners in both the urban and rural settings and with the SNM. A social software based model (Twitter) will be evaluated to assess whether it is useful for enhancing the quality of the learning and teaching by clinical facilitators within their organisational setting; and the learning and teaching experience of SNM students while undertaking work integrated learning placement.
Within a widening participation agenda, the support of students from diverse backgrounds is increasingly important for the University. The domain of the Diverse Student Learning Community of Practice (DSLCoP) is the support of student learning, with a particular focus on the needs of students from culturally and linguistically diverse and non-traditional backgrounds, and the support of faculty staff working with these students. The community extends the work of the previous, grassroots Student Learning Support Network initiated by central student learning support staff. The DSLCoP will begin with members from the central and faculty units involved in the support of student learning, with a long-term view to engaging faculty teaching and administrative staff. The community will reach out to faculty staff to enhance awareness of student learning support opportunities, through workshops and information resources on referral and support, and facilitate collaboration and sharing of practice amongst faculty and central staff interested in the learning of the diverse student population.
This project will establish a community of practice in distance and flexible education at the University of Tasmania. Focussing initially on academics based on the Launceston campus, the Distance Education Community of Practice (DECOP) will involve staff from the Arts, Education, Business and Health faculties and AMC. In 2012 DECOP will deliver a number of outcomes including writing an Issues Paper auditing current distance and flexible education practices; establishing a Key Learnings wiki; hosting two experts on distance education to present workshops; conducting a session at Teaching Matters 2012; and submitting for publication an A1 paper on the work of the project. More significantly, the project will establish a network to support academics’ ongoing efforts to provide state-of-the-art distance and flexible education to UTAS students.Contact: Robert.Clarke@utas.edu.au
Education for sustainability refers to learning and teaching that enables more sustainable ways of living. The Education for Sustainability Community of Practice (EfSCoP) is comprised of academic and professional staff and students who regard education for sustainability as central to the mission of higher education. The domain of the EfSCoP is whole-of-curriculum innovation and reform. This innovation and reform includes efforts to embed sustainability as a foundational graduate capacity across the curriculum through involvement in formal curriculum renewal and design processes and through the informal leadership demonstrated by community members in their discipline areas and teaching responsibilities. The EfSCoP is creating new pathways within the institution for cross-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration in education for sustainability through a membership base that encompasses academic staff within all faculties and on all major campuses of the university. The EfSCoP is also building links between the physical operations of the university (e.g. built environment, resource use, organisational practices) and student learning. These links recognise the importance of the hidden curriculum embedded in learning environments and the importance of authentic learning opportunities created by involving students directly in university operations.
Authorised by the Head, Tasmanian Institute of Learning & Teaching
16 August, 2013