What is your community of practice?


Knox (2009) defines the success of a community of practice as one that has a sense of aliveness to it.  The three elements that make up this aliveness are:

  • Excitement
  • Relevance
  • Value

Cultivating communities of practice: Making them grow – Bruce Knox

This blog entry will critically define my community of practice against Knox’s three elements.

I have identified my community as the Special Education Department at Waimea College.  The community is made up of many individuals including the HOD, specialist teachers, teacher aides, therapy services including speech and language, therapy through music, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

This community has a shared domain of interest of improving the lives of the students who attend the department.  We aim to improve both the academic outcomes for our students and develop the social and emotional intelligence of each student.  The community also strives to ready our students for life after school through an engaging transition programme.

The community engages in a number of activities that are used to foster reflection on practice.  Larrivee (2000) states that unless teachers develop the practice of critical reflection, they stay trapped in unexamined judgements, interpretations, assumptions, and expectations.

The community’s activities include:

  • Daily morning briefings in which immediate issues are discussed
  • Fortnightly Teacher Meetings that are used to review what is working and any areas for future focus
  • Fortnightly full department meetings including Teachers and Techer Aides, where opportunities for feedback and new professional development take place.
  • Termly Teacher only days to focus on specific issues around professional development
  • Once yearly in Term 4, a Teacher only day is used to critically reflect on the learning programme for the year. Formulating learning programmes for the coming year are discussed and critiqued.

Zeicher & Liston (cited in Finlay, 2008) identify five levels of reflection.  Their levels of reflective practice sit on a spectrum from rapid to retheorizing and reformulating.  Our community of practice reflects this spectrum.

The energy of the community of practice comes from a shared belief that every student is unique and special.  The learner is at the centre of everything that we do.  This is displayed in the shared attributes of the members of the community and is reflected in the sense of aliveness that is produced by the community.

Members of the community of practice display shared repertoire of attributes that include

  • Excellence in teaching, learning and behaviour
  • Respect of cultures and abilities
  • Integrity through honesty, accountability and fairness
  • Inclusion through recognising and affirming all students’ identities and talents.

These shared attributes are reflected through interactions with both members of staff, the students, parents and whanau and all who encounter the community.

I feel a deep sense of connectedness and belonging with the individuals that make this community of practice.   As mentioned above the success of the community comes from the energy it generates.

The learner is the focus for all the members of the community.  I offer my own experiences and talents as do all members.  We are all listened to thoughtfully and respectively.

I am an active member of the community.  At appropriate times, I might be a leader and other times a facilitator or active participant.  I contribute with my expertise when appropriate.

The success of this community comes from the internal energy it generates through a shared belief that every student is unique and special.  There is an excitement in the daily programme.

Members of the community feel that their work is relevant to the success of all students.  Members of the community value their work as it is important and beneficial for the learning that takes place in the department.  The community has a sense of aliveness which reflects its success in the students’ lives.

(This blog post relates to Week 25 of Mindlab’s Postgraduate Programme – Defining Your Practice.)


Stewart McKean



Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on reflective practice. PBPL paper, 52, 1-27.

Knox, B. (2009, December 4). Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow. . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhMPRZnRFkk

Larrivee, B. (2000). Transforming teaching practice: Becoming the critically reflective teacher. Reflective practice, 1(3), 293-307.

creative common attribution licence


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