Using communities of practice for the professional development of workplace learning and performance professionals
Theodora J. Fitzsimmons, Capella University, United States
Capella University . Awarded
This study examined how a CoP could be used to further the professional development of like professionals independent of an organization. Instead of on the goals of the organization, the focus of this CoP was on the goals of its individual members. The target audience of this study was a group of workplace learning and performance (WLP) professionals. The CoP was composed of: (a) an online Web site containing a library of electronic references and links, a calendar, on online forum discussions, (b) bi-weekly meetings held via teleconference or Web conference, and (c) a focus on professional development, sharing, supporting, and learning from one another.
A comparison of end-of-study competency and professional habits surveys to baseline data supported a finding that learning did occur as a result of participation in the CoP. Final interviews and final focus group meetings revealed other benefits, motivators, de-motivators, and obstacles to participation. Participants were motivated to participate by the need to satisfy curiosity, interest in fun interactions, such as found in work-related challenges, in meeting personal interests and in finding relevance to current and future needs. De-motivators and obstacles included initial exposure to too much information and too many choices. Participants were de-motivated by information that lacked relevance. Obstacles to participation included conflicting priorities, not knowing participants, and technical problems.
An outcome of this study was the emergence of a template of elements and activities for a CoP that could be used as a starting point for a future study of a target audience with similar needs. A second outcome is an approach to developing a CoP by involving the CoP members in iterative reviews and action planning. A third outcome is a list of recommendations for communications and sharing in a CoP, which include: (a) Plan for short segments of time; (b) Invest in time for people to get to know one another; (c) Start with simple planned activities and allow the CoP to develop organically; (d) Include online forum discussions; (e) Conduct regular live knowledge-sharing meetings; (f) Involve CoP members in co-development of the CoP; and (g) Evaluate knowledge needs of participants.
Fitzsimmons, T.J. Using communities of practice for the professional development of workplace learning and performance professionals. Ph.D. thesis, Capella University.
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