Teaching & Learning

Communities of Practice Initiative (CoPI)

Introduction and Aim

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 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 UTAS 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 twice per 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.  Applications for these grants are called for in July and 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 UTAS 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 12 PLCs will be funded each year, depending on the range of activities proposed. Up to 2 calls for PLCs will be made each year.

To register your interest please complete and email the Expression of Interest form to Awards.Grants@utas.edu.au by the listed due date.

For further information about PLCs, please contact Awards.Grants@utas.edu.au

Communities of Practice at UTAS

Initiated 2014
Social Inclusion Community of Practice

Our proposed CoP will consist of three elements: a "domain"; a "community"; and a "practice", which follows the model recommended by Etienne Wenger (2006), a key figure in Communities of Practice (CoP) literature. Our "domain" (i.e. area of focus) is social inclusion at UTAS. Our aim is to collaboratively learn, share, and reflect on social inclusion in Higher Education in order to inform and improve our teaching and support practice. Our "community'' will consist of staff from across the University, who have a shared interest in social inclusion at UTAS.

Our Core group formed organically in 2012, as a grass-roots collective that organised the first UTAS Social Inclusion Symposium. Our "community" and shared "practice" will develop along with the CoP, but we envisage monthly CoP discussions, workshops, and presentations. This CoP is timely, with the recent approval of the UTAS Social Inclusion Plan 2013-2015. In fact, the CoP has the potential to drive the plan's objectives from a "grass roots" perspective and to inform the next Social Inclusion Symposium, scheduled for 2014.

CoP Contact: Dr Nicole Crawford Nicole.Crawford@utas.edu.au

The CTA CoP project: Establishing a Clinical Teaching Associates Community of Practice to increase capacity through shared vision

The CTA CoP project is a community partnership activity with Clinical Teaching Associates (CTAs) that aligns with UTAS learning and teaching strategic priorities. CTAs are men and women from the community, employed on a casual basis in a challenging, quasi-partnership role as trained, human simulators to support a safe learning method of genital examination to a variety of students. The literature identifies the important contribution CTAs play in healthcare education and the increasing expectations of their role. As a community, the CTAs have developed a wealth of expertise, but currently have no avenue to come together to share experiences and views to help shape their role. 

The project objectives are to establish a sustainable CTA Community of Practice (CoP) through collaborative, guided meetings: and as a seed fund to a future TDG-B or OL T grant to establish an inaugural and future National/International CTA CoP forum. The project offers numerous benefits to CTAs practice, strengthens UTAS community partnerships, supports teaching and learning priorities, and adds to the future research agenda.

CoP Contact: Mr Neil Sefton Neil.Sefton@utas.edu.au

Communities of Practice Resources