A Tale of Two Communities of Practice: Building SoTL across a diverse Science and Engineering Faculty

My colleague Professor Mark Langan and I presented this Tale of Two Communities at EuroSoTL 2022 yesterday. For those who weren’t able to attend, or who asked us to share the slides, you can access them via the link below.

Encouraging academics to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning ( SoTL) when they already have busy and diverse workloads is a persistent challenge across the University landscape. Focusing on experiences in the Faculty of Science and Engineering in our home institution of Manchester Metropolitan University , we shared the story of two distinct Communities of Practice, both of which operate differently as they create spaces to enable academics to gather and learn from each other whilst developing shared SoTL practice. 

Community of Practice 1 was formed in 2018. Named “Education Escapes”, we wanted this to be a place to ‘escape from the day job’, and to debate contemporary subjects catalysed by thought-provoking educational speakers. Membership is diffuse and transient with all academics in the Faculty invited to monthly meetings. 

Community of Practice 2 was formed late in in 2019 and named “EPC Community” to reflect its more focused approach to staff development. Membership is by Head of Department invitation, and aligns to members’ commitment to the Education, Pedagogy and Citizenship (EPC) Career Pathway (an education-focused promotion track). We have around 50 academic members, meeting six times a year with the explicit aim of building capability in SoTL and mentoring members for promotion. 

Our session at EuroSoTL drew on the personal reflections of the two convenors, and written reflections of members’ experiences of the two communities, in two ways. Firstly, through the lens of Wenger’s (1998) three characteristics of Communities of Practice (domain, community and practice) and secondly, using Trigwell and Shale’s (2004) three components of scholarship; knowledge, practice and outcomes. We shared candidly what has worked and not worked in both communities and explored tensions experienced by academics as they step beyond their disciplinary fields and into the domain of Scholarship of Learning and Teaching.

References

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press.

Trigwell, K. and Shale, S. (2004). Student learning and the scholarship of university teaching. Studies in Higher Education29(4), 523-536.

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