Teaching and Learning Communities
A teaching and learning community is a group of people who share a passion for something they would like to discuss or explore related to teaching, learning or assessment. Teaching and learning communities are usually social or informal spaces where staff from the Office of Teaching and Learning and faculty can explore emergent issues and experiences related to Teaching and Learning. We encourage participants to bring an inquisitive mind and as many related questions as possible for us to discuss. The key purpose of a teaching and learning community is to provide an opportunity for people to share their curiosity about a topic and to learn together. One type of teaching and learning community is a community of practice (COP).
What is a community of practice (CoP)?
A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who "share a passion for something they know how to do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better" (Wenger, 2006). CoPs are social and encourage people to share their knowledge, skills, ideas, questions and expertise. They can be informal or formal, can have changing membership, and can meet on different schedules.
The key purpose of the CoP is to provide an opportunity for people to share their expertise, experiences and curiosity about a topic and to learn together.
The following list represents the current, active CoPs on campus:
- Graduate Teaching Community (GTC)
- Instructional Inclusivity Community of Practice (IICoP)
- Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Community of Practice (SoTL CoP)
- The Education for Sustainability CoP meets six times a year to discuss ideas related to sustainability in education at the University of Guelph. The group is open to anyone in the University and Guelph communities.
The Office of Teaching and Learning provides guidance and can partner with you to set up a Community of Practice (CoP).
Why should I participate in a community of practice?
Communities of practice provide the space to share and connect with others who are similarly interested and passionate about a topic or idea. Participating in a CoP will introduce you to other people and ideas you may not encounter on your own. In addition to learning new knowledge or skills, you will connect with others and build a "community" dedicated to the topic you care about.
Who can participate in a community of practice?
Communities of practice are most often open to anyone who shares an interest in, or experience with, the topic. On occasion, membership is restricted to those working directly with that topic (e.g., instructors of first year classes). If membership is restricted, the description of the CoP will clearly state the restriction. If no restriction is listed, anyone--students, staff, instructors and Guelph community members--is welcomed and encouraged to participate.
Have an idea for a new community of practice?
It is easy to start a CoP. You'll receive support from the Office of Teaching and Learning in getting started and leadership of the CoP can be distributed.
What is involved in leading/participating in a CoP?
Group Member Responsibilities
- Attend and participate in scheduled meetings
- Contribute to developing and meeting the vision and goals of the community of practice
- Suggest ideas and topics for the community to explore
Each community of practice typically has two chairs. Chairs will serve for one or two years, allowing one new chair each year and one continuing chair. This process allows for both continuity and change in community leadership. The responsibilities of chairs include:
- Identifying important issues, questions and ideas in the field of interest
- Planning and facilitating community events
- Creating and fostering informal connections among community members
- Coordinating with Educational Developers in OpenEd, when necessary
- Maintaining a list of members
- Calling and scheduling meetings, with at least one co-chair present
- Assessing the health of the community by tracking membership and activities, and communicating with members
How does the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) support communities of practice?
If you identify a topic that interests you and you want to start a CoP, an Educational Developer from OTL will work with you to establish and organize your event by:
- Advertising the CoP
- Booking space for meetings
- Facilitating the first meeting of the CoP
- Creating and sharing a CourseLink site for the CoP
- Providing ongoing support for co-chairs of the CoP
If you're interested in joining a community of practice or would like to start one on a topic not yet listed, please email the Office of Teaching and Learning (firstname.lastname@example.org).