Developing an Online Learning Community of Practices With Ten-Year-Old Pupils
This submission sets out a narrative of how a practitioner in the field of education identified and implemented the changes required, both in research methodology and in practice, in order to answer the question ‘how do I improve my practice?’ (Whitehead and McNiff, 2004) while remaining true to a personal value system by not teaching or researching in ‘a living contradiction’ (Ibid: 5) where a value system and a practice are not working in harmony. This submission chronicles a self-study journey to improve practice by identifying and reflecting on the changes required to improve that practice when ‘teaching’ ten-year-old pupils historical enquiry online. The narrative demonstrates how a practice can be reconceptualised and illustrates the outcomes of that re-conceptualisation. The particular practice in question was set within the context of technological advances in the Internet over the last half decade: in the early research the pupils used the Internet as an online encyclopaedia while in the later stages of the research they used the Internet as a means to access online authoring sites on the read-write resource Web 2.0. The journey of change follows the practitioner from teaching historical enquiry within a classroom setting to that of teaching historical enquiry within an online authoring site, called a wiki. To achieve those changes many key concepts (that had informed teaching practices at the beginning of the research journey) had to be deconstructed and subsequently restructured using an alternative design. The learning process was one of the key concepts teased apart and reconstructed using Wenger’s ‘communities of practice’ approach as a template for designing a small community of practices. It was the emerging small community of practices on the wiki that developed into a new perspective on how to promote the learning process most effectively in an online context. The submission also narrates the ontological dimension to the journey where the practitioner’s key personal values were used in the change process to create a living theory. This value driven methodology created living standards of judgement. The submission identifies, then critically reflects on, the two voices representing the significance of the developing perspectives of the writer as researcher and as practitioner. It then uses journal entries, articles and interviews to follow the practitioner journey from perspective point one to perspective point two. It reflects critically on the change process being experienced and the growing confidence that emerged as the practitioner and researcher voices began, in combination, to challenge accepted practice and develop a new single voice that impacts upon both the professional context and the field of educational theory. It leads to the acceptance of some of Wenger’s assertions that underpin his notion that meaning is negotiated in communities of practice and examines the changes in thinking that eventually led to this model being interpreted as a reference point only and to the suggestion of a new perspective on the learning process. The contribution to knowledge is, then, to be found in this new perspective of what is meant by a community of practices and the learning processes it generates with reference to teaching historical enquiry skills to ten-year-old pupils on an online authoring site called a wiki.