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Forming communities of practice


Julkaistu : 24.10.2019

As a Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) coach, I got an opportunity to facilitate a panel discussion as part of an internal RDI coffee event that was organised at Haaga-Helia. Five lecturers that are actively involved in project work, were invited to share their experiences about how to succeed in preparing project applications. I found the discussion to be interesting and informative. To my disappointment, the number of attendees was very low.

In my opinion, the perception about such an RDI coffee event should extend beyond merely having coffee and chitchatting with colleagues where learning becomes stagnant, change and development minimal. On the contrary, this event offers an opportunity to employees to be updated with RDI activities and to alter his or her thinking about project work from a burdensome task to more of a dynamic learning process.

From a broader perspective, such events offer informal learning opportunities that occur adventitiously at a workplace where new and expansive ideas are nurtured, where individual, collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning. This type of learning is unstructured and experiential, which is contrary to prescribed learning frameworks with specific formal learning outcomes.

On one hand, it may be viewed as a platform that fosters individual learning orientations: constructivism (learning as a conceptual change rather than acquisition of knowledge and building on prior experiences; Biggs, 2003) and transformative learning (a rational discourse and critical reflection; Kauffman & Mann, 2010). On the other hand, such events contribute to developing communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) where learning can be seen as a feature of practise, in other words, when people with common concern or passion interact on an ongoing basis and in the process, develop collective learning (Wengner, McDermott & Snyder, 2002). In the long run, such events may contribute to transformative change and development at a macro level where new patterns of work activity are produced, for example, increase in the number of project works integrated within different courses offered at academic institutions.

Existing studies indicate that collaborative ideation events have the potential to

  • alter and inform future practise (Regehr & Mylopoulos, 2008),
  • foster organisational performance, efficiency and effectiveness (Nisbet, Lincoln & Dunn, 2013),
  • promote deliberate (Eraut 2000; 2004) and informal interprofessional learning as part of the normal culture of practice (Elwyn & Hailey, 2004),
  • act as a stimulus for team functioning (Nisbet et al., 2013) including greater job satisfaction (Rowden 2002; Rowden & Conine, 2005) and career satisfaction (Joo & Ready, 2012).

I hope, that this gives enough motivation for all to participate in various kinds of internal events that foster workplace learning.