OK, so this is what I am now working on (subject to approval) … however having looked at other people’s proposals on my cohort that have been posted on the discussion forum mine does not look half as well constructed. I’m also concerned that other people just sound so much more ‘ academic-ee’ if you know what I mean. Still.. we will see as things progress. I know that I need to really work on my lit review skills so perhaps in the next module ( if I get through this one !) I might try and do a systematic lit review / desk based research for that one maybe ?
I have a couple of concerns floating around in my head a) timescale is limited b) wordlimit is limited c) need to get hold of participants and sort out the interviews pretty sharpish as we are now at the beginning of July … So that all said here is what I have got so far ..
Title : Development of a Technology Enhanced Learning Community of Practice at Swansea University
The purpose of this small empirical research project is to investigate participant attitudes and experience of existing Communities of Practice and establish whether or not any of these already relate to Technology Enhanced Learning. Ideally the data gathered could be used to inform key decisions that will be made regarding the potential development of a new Community of Practice at Swansea University with a particular focus on Technology Enhanced Learning.
This research aims to find out if colleagues are currently engaging in Communities of Practice either within or externally to Swansea University in relation to their own professional practice and whether or not this relates to Technology Enhanced Learning. This research also aims to establish if there is an appetite for establishing a Community of Practice dedicated to TEL and if so whether there is a preferred format for this in terms of either technological platform.
Research Context and Problem
At Swansea University there are small pockets of colleagues already working to embed Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) within their teaching, but they are not necessarily in contact with other colleagues across disciplines and different departments that may be working on very similar or indeed the same sort of TEL initiatives. Research undertaken by Jakovljevic, Buckley and Bushney (2013) suggests that ‘a well-planned CoP programme is the key to successful implementation of communities of practice….[and], it is necessary to investigate and connect the practical, theoretical and reflective experiences of learners.’ (2013, p1115). As such this mini project will conduct research to look at the attitudes and experiences of staff in relation to communities of practice.
Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching (SALT) already undertake various initiatives to try and share good practice such as having SALT Leads within each College, we also run a blog within our department , publish case studies online and have our own twitter presence and undertake seminars throughout the year together with our own annual learning and teaching conference but we know that not every member of staff engages with these activities. Some people are active on twitter, others on google groups / communities , some people blog however many others do not do not undertake any forms of virtual communication.
I work as a Senior Academic Developer and am now responsible for the introduction of a new Continued Professional Development Framework at Swansea University. I am a strong believer in social and collaborative learning and I would therefore like to extend and improve the various opportunities that colleagues have in order to share best practice and connect with colleagues across the institution. I anticipate that some sort of facilitated community of practice (CoP) (Lave and Wenger 1991) would be of benefit to colleagues.
RQ1. What could a Technology Enhanced Learning Focused Community of Practice look like at Swansea University ?
RQ2: What is the experience of staff in relation to Communities of Practice for their own Professional Practice ?
RQ3.What would motivate staff to participate a TEL Focused Community of Practice at Swansea University ?
I am trying to find out about participant perceptions and experience of Communities of Practice. I propose therefore to use a qualitative methodological approach and grounded theory to describe and explain the ‘phenomena’ of Communities of Practice.
The research will be undertaken using a semi-structured interview approach. This method will allow participants attitudes towards and experience of Communities of Practice to be explored in depth.
Key open questions will be developed for the semi-structured interviews suggested initial thoughts for questions are :
· What would entice you to join a TEL CoP ?
· Is Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching a CoP ?
· What online (internal) communities are you involved with in relation to your own professional practice ?
· What online (external) communities are you involved with in relation to your own professional practice ?
· Are there any communities that you used to be involved with but are no longer ? If so why ?
· How did you become aware of the communities that you are connected to ?
· How and Why do you contribute ?
· How does your involvement impact on your own professional practice ?
The initial area of focus and questions will be used in a pilot study with an initial volunteer to assess for relevancy and refine timings of the interviews.
Participants will be selected using purposeful selection based on participants who have been actively involved in the initial project. It is proposed to interview three participants on a one to one basis with the interview being conducted in a private office. A written statement will be provided to the participants and read aloud to ensure that the participants are reassured of anonymity and ethical considerations. Participants will be informed that the outcomes of the investigation will be reported on in a debriefing session following submission of the assignment. Notes will be made at the time of interview and recordings taken for the purposes of transcription and analysis of the data.
It is proposed to analyse the data using an approach based on an abbreviated version of Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967) using principles of comparative analysis and coding to draw out common themes using open, axial and selective coding (Strauss and Corbin 1990)
I will record and transcribe the interviews by hand and code these manually in order to analyse the data for themes.
Ethical Concerns and Limitations
It is acknowledged that this investigation has several limitations. It will be limited to the experience and perceptions of three members of staff working in a single university. It is likely therefore that it would not reach full data saturation. There may also be something specific about the culture in which members of staff in this university operate.
The research will be conducted within the Lancaster University ethical research guidelines and that of Swansea University. The interview questions will also be developed in accordance with the British Psychological Society Ethical Guidelines.
A risk assessment has been carried out to identify the level of risk associated with this investigation and assessed as LOW. Participants taking part in the interviews should present a relatively low risk as the scope of the interview would not be outside that encountered during their everyday work. Any participants that do raise any issues outside of the scope of the research will be dealt with empathetically and referred to appropriate sources available within the university (e.g. Employee Helpline / Counselling Service) although it is not anticipated that this will be needed given the nature of the inquiry.
Participants will be provided with a written statement outlining the scope of the interview and how the data will be analysed and reported upon. The statement will also confirm that they can withdraw from the interview at any point and will contact my contact details for queries. Although participants will be known to myself, responses will be anonymised to maintain confidentiality for the purposes of the research.
Written consent will be sought from each participant and all will be fully debriefed on the results of the research obtained. The required self-assessment ethics form has been completed and submitted.
This research aims to understand the experience and attitude of staff in relation to Communities of Practice and their perception of what a Technology Enhanced Learning Community of Practice could look like at Swansea. Findings will inform the future direction of the potential development of such a CoP at Swansea and may be of interest to other Higher Education institutions who are considering introducing TEL CoP’s.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Moore, B (2008) Using Technology to Promote Communities of Practice (CoP) in Social Work Education, Social Work Education, 27:6, 592-600, DOI: 10.1080/02615470802201580
Lawrence, J, and Sankey, M (2008) Communities of practice: A sphere of influence enhancing teaching and learning in higher education
Strauss, A.L. and Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques, 2nd edn. London: Sage.
Wenger, E. (1998): Communities of Practice: learning, meaning and identity, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
Wenger, E (1999) Learning as social participation
Wenger, E. (2001): Supporting communities of practice: a survey of community-oriented technologies, http://www.ewenger.com/tech/executive_summary.html
Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W. M. (2002): Cultivating Communities of Practice, Boston, MASS, Harvard Business School Press
Wenger-Trayner, E and Wenger-Trayner, B (2015) Communities of practice: A brief Introduction
Wenger, E., White, N. & Smith, J.D. (2009). Digital habitats: Stewarding technology for communities. Portland, OR: CPSquare