The Development of a Doctoral Program CoP and Its Members

The Development of a Doctoral Program CoP and Its Members

Carol A. Olszewski (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA), Kyle A. Znamenak (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA), Toni M. Paoletta (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA), Catherine A. Hansman (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA), Matthew L. Selker (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA), Karie A. Coffman (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA) and Keli B. Pontikos (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJAET.2020040101
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The purpose of this research study was to explore how a multigenerational community of practice (CoP) at a public urban university may provide doctoral students the space and the support needed to explore and develop their professional identities and find their scholarly voices. The second aim of this study was to examine how the entity of the CoP itself evolved over time. Social learning theory and generational theory provided the framework to interpret the data. Through analysis of collective autoethnographic journals, three primary themes emerged:1) psychological safety and trust; 2) diverse expectations became shared interests; and 3) the unique and shared experiences of the CoP members.
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Literature Review

Communities of Practice (CoPs)

Foundational to CoPs is situated learning. Lave and Wenger (1991) described situated learning as a process whereby individuals participate, to varying degrees, in a group where shared practices, what they describe as legitimate peripheral participation, are central to their learning and development. Social interaction forms the basis of a common bond that helps to establish a group identity and a sense of shared value to the learning that occurs within the group (Gauthier, 2016). Communities of practice are typically “formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour...[and they] share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015, p. 1).

CoPs are socially constructed learning spaces, centered on a shared interest, where interactive relationships enable the members to learn from each other and where members care about the opinions regarding each other (Farnsworth, Kleanthous, & Wenger-Trayner, 2016). Within a community of practice, people also develop, negotiate, and share personal ways of understanding the world; they experience a form of social learning (Gauthier, 2016). CoPs are more than just a group of people working together on a task; rather “it refers to a social process of negotiating competence in a domain over time” (Farnsworth et al., 2016, p. 5). Other key characteristics that make CoPs different from traditional learning groups are their organic nature and the opportunity for individuals to be self-directed while participating in a collaborative learning process (Hansman, 2001, 2014). Wenger-Trayner and Wenger-Trayner (2015) highlighted that groups of people in a CoP share a concern or a passion and learn how to do it better through regular interaction.

Hoadley and Kilner (2005) extended Wenger’s work by outlining four key practices related to the community’s purpose: connection, conversation, exploration of context, and documentation of content. Professional identity is the collection of attributes, beliefs, values, motives, and experiences resulting from personal and collective reflection (Ibarra, 1999). P. A CoP may also assist members with professional identity development by allowing the space for members to collectively explore and reflect (Coffman et. al, 2016). These common or uncommon characteristics influence learning within a CoP, as well as the development of the CoP itself.

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