The Community of Praxis grows and grows…

I recently took some time out and, gloriously, the Community of Praxis continued to grow and thrive.  Not a single plant had died in the two months I was away.  That’s a well-planned garden.  What’s more – to extend the metaphor – unexpected new flowers had blossomed, not least this analysis of what forms a Community of Praxis from pioneer member and Thinker, Adrian Judd.  Adrian’s writing is beautifully clear and it is encouraging to have his perspective.  More later on other new plants in the greenhouse…

From Judd, A (2013):

communityofpraxis

A Community of Practice does not come into being by itself. It needs to be planted, nurtured, watered, fed and tended.

Giving learners control of the curriculum.

Learners need to gain confidence to participate in taking the control which they are given. That is part of the nurturing that the teacher needs to do. It is a skilful job based on trust.

Learners are a mixed group who may fear their tutors, as representatives of college authorities, for example for non-payment of fees, or as representatives of the university, for example for needing an extension as a result of not completing their course work on time.

Learners are changing in role from tutees to tutors, and the creation of a Community of Practice includes the gradual taking on of responsibility for mutual support, teaching, encouragement and coaching, as well as the immediate responsibility of planning at the start of the academic year (or the end of the first year).

Part of the challenge of creating a Community of Practice is the intangible nature of the concepts that crystallize to create the personal characteristics which structure the social interactions which form the Community of Practice: face-to-face; and via social media and email.

The concepts include the Thinking Environment, the Skilful Teacher, Freirian Dialogue and Respect for learners, Teaching with a Social Purpose, Critical Theory and Pedagogy, and Connectedness through Emerging Technologies.

The personal characteristics are independence, interdependence, trust, mutuality, co-operation, openness, transparency, criticality, reflexivity, values, change agents, and an enquiring mind.

The social interactions are between the student teachers, their mentors, colleagues, theorists, their own tutors, and learners. The interactions may be in person, via social media, email, in the classroom, in the pub, at college, or virtual.

The responsibility for the tutor, which is hard to explain on a session plan, is to structure the social interactions, without controlling them, and to develop trainee characteristics without forcing them. The complexity and subtlety of these dual responsibilities of structuring and developing takes more time and effort rather than less. It requires flair and imagination, and modelling the characteristics which it is hoped the trainees will develop.

Respect for learners and dialogue prohibit prescriptive ideology – ideology is the opposite of dialogue according to Freire – yet the paradox at Northern College is the desire to create teachers with a social purpose, yet to do so without indoctrination. Only a Thinking environment, evidenced in giving up control to learners, can create the conditions for this to occur, and only an enhanced learning environment can meet the learning needs of the students and facilitate the multi-dimensional interactions which are the crystal lattice of a community of practice.

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Author: TeachNorthern

We are hard working educators with passionate interest in Teaching for a Social Purpose. Everything we've learned is through observing colleagues and students, all of whom are committed to changing the world. And reading interesting stuff. We work at The Northern College in Barnsley and its mission (and thirty-eight year history) of social transformation makes it an ideal base to face the challenges of teaching adults in 21st century England.

2 thoughts on “The Community of Praxis grows and grows…”

  1. I love this, and I think the point about the garden being ‘well-planned’ is key. Communities such as this do not come about by accident as Adrian points out and require a lot of effort on behalf of the tutor and tutee group. The Thinking Environment is counter-cultural in many ways – the educational and business worlds rarely operate like this – so the participants require time to learn (or ‘unlearn’) habits so that the community can be established and accepted. I think there is a necessary process of learning that everyone has to go through; this is natural and ultimately liberating. I hope many other educational establishments can learn from this model.

  2. You are right, Kay, about the approach of both the Thinking Environment (www.timetothink.com) and the Community of Praxis being counter-cultural, but not counter-intuitive; Adrian has said elsewhere to me that intuition comes from deeply internalised values and the Social Purpose values which are our common ground on the programme means that the Community of Praxis exists (for us) in fertile soil.

    Where individuals resist the Community of Praxis, where they are passive in their style of learning, the work you and Lesley Whiting do around (political and emotional) resilience is important, I think.

    Communities of Praxis should flourish in public and third sector life, particularly social entrepreneurial life, where the rhetoric for certain is around working for social purpose. When they don’t, a rhetoric gap is easily found between what the organisation says and how it does, in fact, treat its staff. I’m thinking at the moment about how to identify and articulate ways of addressing this.

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