Is Presence of Community of Practice Dimensions Sufficient for Community-Based Teacher Professional Development?

Is Presence of Community of Practice Dimensions Sufficient for Community-Based Teacher Professional Development?

Puvaneswary Murugaiah (Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia), Thang Siew Ming (National University of Malaysia, Malaysia), Hazita Azman (National University of Malaysia, Malaysia) and Radha Nambiar (National University of Malaysia, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5780-9.ch104
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Abstract

Professional development programmes that include teacher collaboration can help teachers meet their professional needs and control their professional lives. They can voice their needs and expectations to peers who share similar experiences. Moreover, teachers can discover new teaching roles and opportunities, develop new skills and find motivation in being a member of a group (Burbank & Kauchak, 2003; Hawkes, 2000). With the affordances provided by Web technologies, the potentiality of online communities of practice (CoPs) as a means of improving teacher professional development has become a reality and is gaining popularity. The Online Continuing Professional Development for Teachers (e-CPDelT) project aimed to develop three online CoPs; that is, English, Mathematics and Science communities among twenty Malaysian Smart school teachers. This paper examined the key CoP dimensions, as expounded in Wenger's (1998) framework, and investigated whether their presence is sufficient for successful CoP among teachers in the English cohort. The findings revealed that although the key CoP dimensions were present, there were several factors inhibiting their participation in the community-based cohort. It can be implied that it is crucial to consider these factors in developing teacher online CoPs in Malaysia.
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Background

The Smart school initiative was launched in 1999 to encourage the development of ICT in Malaysian education. Smart schools are technologically enriched schools where teaching and learning practices and school management have been systematically reinvented. The initiative aims to equip students with IT competence, science and technology as well as to transform the education system; that is, to move from an exam-dominated culture to a thinking and creative knowledge culture (Ministry of Education, 1997). To begin with, the Smart school approach was used in the teaching and learning of four subjects: English Language, Malay Language, Science and Mathematics (Ministry of Education, 1997).

Teachers play a significant role in ensuring the success of any educational reform, including the Smart school initiative. Thus, to constantly enhance knowledge, competence and efficiency of Smart school teachers, the Teacher Education Division (TED) of the Ministry of Education has conducted several training programmes and courses for teachers. However, despite the training provided, teachers are facing numerous problems in implementing the project. The problems include lack of ICT skills (Hajar Mohd. Nor, 2005), lack of continual skill training (Razak & Embi, 2004; Samuel & Bakar, 2006) and also the ineffectiveness of the training programmes (Malakolunthu, 2007). Hence, it is clear that the training programmes have not brought about the desired effects for the successful implementation of the Smart school initiative.

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