Saturday, 14 April 2018

TML Wk 19: Communities of Practice

Wenger (2000) states a community of practice can be defined as "groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly". These communities have three characteristics, domain, community, and practice.  I am part of several CoPs and for this reflection I will contextualise my participation and leadership within our school senior leadership team and consider the following 2 inquiry areas from our MIndlab study to date:
  1. Digital: Maker Movement + computational thinking (Tinker Time)
  2. Leadership: Teacher inquiry into student learning
The senior leadership team as a CoP consists of 4 senior leaders and 6 team leaders.  The team leaders are responsible for ensuring that Tinker Time (our school's take on the Maker Movement inclusive of computation thinking) takes place within their teams.  The team leaders also are responsible with the facilitation of weekly collaborative inquiry meetings within their respective teams to reflect, plan and adapt their weekly teaching in order to have a positive impact on student outcomes.  

My involvement as the principal and lead learner/change maker is to create systems and structures to ensure that these 2 initiatives are happening and empower the team leaders (and senior leaders) to monitor the implementation of these initiatives.

  1. Tinker Time: The video below was made this week by visiting educator Michael Davidson of MakerEdNZ.  At our school we have integrated Tinker Time as our take on Maker Space and incorporation of computational thinking.  Many schools have visited to see how we have invested in technologies and have our Tinker Kits rotated through the classes.  
  2. Collaborative Inquiry: Teaching as Inquiry has been modified at our school over the last 3 years.  We have implemented a spiral of inquiry approach in the past that was individual, however last year moved to a more collaborative approach where staff worked in teams (rather than individually).  Staff were able to then start reflecting and supporting each other with changes to their practice.  When responsibility is shared, substantive decision making occurs and interdependent relationships are fostered for collaboration (ITL research, 2012).

Critical Reflection:
After discussions with my CoP (senior leadership team) and also informal discussions with my CoP (Mindlab crew) I can reflect: 
  1. Tinker Time: Currently staff go through the process of letting the students participate in Tinker Time, however there isn't a deep investment from staff with the importance of how this links to the digital technologies curriculum.  There is also a disconnect between the WHY we are implementing Tinker Time with how student interactions with this type of technologies contributes to promoting our future orientated outlook at our school.  I would like to investigate the views of staff into the barriers for them with implementation.
  2. Collaborative Inquiry:  Based on feedback from last year's teaching as inquiry/collaborative inquiry where teams once a term investigated student outcomes and possible ideas for changes in their practice and reflection, a new system has been created to enable weekly critical reflection of teacher practice and the impact that this has on learner outcomes.  I would like to investigate how to support and develop team leaders facilitation and coaching skills to really ask the hard questions of their team members to reflect on whether their adaptations are having an impact.
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ITL Research. (2012). 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. Retrieved from

Jay, J.K. and Johnson, K.L. (2002). Capturing complexity: a typology of reflective practice for teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 73-85.

Ministry of Education (2017).  Digital Technologies Hangarau Matihiko. Crown, Wellington.  Retrieved from

Wegner,E.(2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization,7 (2),225-246 


Natasha Leafberg said...

Hi Justine,

I really enjoyed reading your post and what you are doing with tinkertime sounds great. I think that the lack of investment from teachers would be based on 'fear' rather than not wanting to participate. As soon as I am presented with anything technical like coding, robotics etc I literally seize up because I can't get my brain around it. I think in terms of words and poetry, anything practical and I physically/mentally remove myself from the situation. I did this at the mindlab course when we had to build things. I was 'out' as soon as I saw the equipment. This is based purely on my 'fear' and not because I don't want to participate. Perhaps some teachers are feeling like this?


Karen Noble-Campbell said...

Hi Justine

Your maker space/tinker time sounds really exciting - we do genius hour at our school which allows the children to follow a passion that they are interested in so it is a bit freer than everyone having to do the same kind of thing. This is a great way to teach skills to students that they wouldn't necessarily get exposed to - this term one student taught the teacher how to play guitar! I hear you on the collaborative inquiry reflection. This is a hard one as it requires the leaders to really understand critical reflection and be skilled enough to ask the hard questions without shutting down what teachers are trying to do. We are trying to mentor and build our coaches in the area of reflective practice and it is hard work. some teachers require the direct approach of "You could try or have you tried..." whereas others need the indirect approach where just the opportunity to discuss what they are doing with the occasional reflective question will set them off on the next tangent. I think adopting a coaching and mentoring approach along the lines of reflective questioning for your leaders might be the key to addressing some of your issues. Good luck - I look forward to hearing which inquiry you choose to go down.