Cultivating Communities of Practice for Knowledge Transfer in Higher Education Institutions

Eric CHENG
The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong
eckcheng@ied.edu.hk

Abstract

Managing knowledge transfer through communities of practice (CoP) has increasingly grown in popularity among teaching professions (Kirscher & Lai, 2007; Kimble et. al. 2008; Brouwer et. al. 2012). CoP has been shown to encourage member participation in collaborative learning and to enhance knowledge acquisition from each other (Wenger, 2004). Previous empirical research indicated that CoP had significant positive effects on both the process and the outcome of collaborative learning (Holland, 2005), as well as reciprocal relationship with teacher professional development and instructional improvement interventions (Schlager & Fusco, 2003). However, to launch a CoP in HEIs is difficult, for it cannot be mandated or created, but it can only be coordinated, facilitated, and cultivated. By drawing on the findings of an empirical study of cultivating a CoP in a teacher education institute for managing knowledge in field experience supervision, this paper explores the duality characteristics of a CoP including bottom up and top down approach for designing CoP, participation and rectification in capturing knowledge, and process and content facilitation for knowledge sharing. The findings show that CoP could be a prerequisite to designing social learning infrastructure that supports knowledge transfer of education professionals. It brings teachers of the HEIs together for rigorous conversations that are conducive to knowledge sharing and enables them to make connections with others so as to create powerful learning experiences for them and will lead directly to powerful learning for students.

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