Home > Uncategorized > Communities of practice: A model for ICT PD

Communities of practice: A model for ICT PD

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From the articles I’ve been reading on teacher PD for ICT, there appears to be a clear message.

  • To achieve positive learning outcomes, PD is crucial.
  • PD must be continuous and address particular needs of individual teachers.
  • The traditional model for PD (one-off, one day courses) is bunk as it doesn’t provide on-going support.
  • The focus on skills is a distraction from the main-game, pedagogy.

It is with this understanding that I sought out Ronald MacDonald’s 2008 paper on ICT PD (full reference below).

MacDonald cites evidence that the vast majority of teachers (90%) report that their primary source of PD is their colleagues. This may not sound surprising, but stop to consider all the time and effort poured into formal PD and it starts to sound less like a truism and more like an important avenue for investigation. Given this trend, and my understanding of the current ICT PD landscape, I was compelled to read on.

MacDonald argues that the strength of collegiate interaction and shared knowledge should be exploited formally, using a Communities of Practice model. A Community of Practice (CoP) is described as a ;

“persistent, sustained social network of individuals who share and develop an overlapping knowledge base, set of beliefs, values, history and experiences focused on a common practice and/or mutual experience” (Barab, MaKinster, & Scheckler, 2003, p. 238) in Macdonald, 2008 p.430

CoP encourages teacher self reflection, a vital component of enaging with pedagogical (not just skill-based) concern. MacDonald also highlights the benefits of a synergistsic relationship between education researchers and teachers working together in a CoP. After reading MacDonald’s lengthy discussion, I was left with the sense that researchers whould be part of the CoP, with heightened importance at the inception, asking probing questions and steering direction, yet not taking ownership of the research and learning. To me, this sounds like the role of a good teacher in a constructivist classroom, broadly steering a course, yet allowing enquiry to be the engine of group learning. As such, PD providers should become facilitators and support teachers generating new knowledege.

Funny, the more I read about PD, the more I’m surprised by structures which ignore current best-practice in teaching school students. We are all students, and classroom or staffroom, it’s all education


  • MacDonald, R.J. (2008).Professional Development for Information Communication Technology Integration: Identifying and Supporting a Community of Practice through Design-Based Research. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 40(4). p. 429-445. Retrieved from: http://www.mrgibbs.com/tu/research/articles/MacDonald_PD for ICT.pdf
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