Communities of Practice engage around three key components:
The members of a community of practice share a common problem or area of interest. Communities of practice are more than a social group. They have a shared competence on a specific topic. Members learn from one another’s experience in the field. The domain is not fixed and can grow and evolve with the group. It will guide the questions the community pursues and the way that shared knowledge is organized.
At its core, a community of practice is a group of advisors who collaborate, learn together, develop personal connections, and develop a sense of belonging and mutual commitment. Members meet regularly to engage in learning activities and discus topics of interest within their domain. Because learning is fundamentally social, they establish relationships that allow them to learn from one another. Members of a community of practice do not need to work together every day.
More than an assemblage of people with similar interests, communities of practice share a set of frameworks, ideas, tools, information, language, and stories. They work to document and disseminate ideas, resources, and best practices. The practice is the specific knowledge that the community develops. This includes books, articles, websites, and other sources that members share and create.
Each community of practice is led by a community coordinator. The coordinator is a member of the community, often a more seasoned advisor, who helps the community focus on its domain, develop relationships, and deepen its practice. The coordinator’s primary role is to facilitate dialogue, not provide answers. Coordinators will:
- Identify important issues in the community’s domain
- Plan and facilitate community meetings
- Link community members, crossing colleges and departments
- Facilitate dialogue between the community and the UAC
- Help build the practice including the knowledge base, lessons learned, best practices, tools, and methods, and learning events
- Assess the health of the community and evaluate its contribution to members and the organization
Benefits to Membership in a Community
Through membership and contribution to a community of practice, academic advisors connect their own professional development to the strategic direction of the University and University Advising Center. Significant contributions to communities of practices enhance advisor’s visibility within the organization.