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School Teacher Professional Development in Online Communities of Practice: A Systematic Literature Review

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This study informs researchers of educational technology, teachers, teacher associations, moderators or admins of online platforms who are interested in knowledge sharing among teachers within online communities of practice (CoP). The continuous professional development of teachers is primarily about teachers sharing knowledge with one another to help improve their practice. The continuous professional development process includes both formal and informal learning activities to contribute transformation in an individual’s attitudes, behavior, skills, and knowledge. However, formal knowledge sharing (for example, training workshops) methods have failed to contribute desired on-demand context-appropriate knowledge. On the contrary, informal knowledge sharing, which occurs and contributes to teacher’s immediate context or needs, can transform teachers into a member of CoP. There are various national and global IT platforms, which are designed to enable teachers to participate and share knowledge in CoP. For many countries in the world, online platforms for professional development are relatively recent phenomena for school teachers. So, this systematic literature review reports a qualitative synthesis of literature on in-service teachers’ online CoP. The study adheres to Creswell’s (2012) five-step literature search and analysis process. With a preliminary list of 580 records, the study has included seven peer-reviewed articles. Applying an approach inspired by grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 1990), themes are identified in each of the articles, and the themes are merged into seven categories based on the broad themes and research questions of the reviewed articles. The seven categories are as follows. 1) In the online communities practice, with which activities do teachers engage with one another? 2) What knowledge do teachers share in the online CoP? 3) What motivates teachers to participate and share knowledge in the online communities of practice? 4) What are the barriers to teachers’ participation and knowledge sharing in the online CoP? 5) Which roles do the moderators contribute in teachers’ online platforms? 6) What are the perceived benefits of teachers’ online CoP? 7) Which factors should be considered while developing online platforms for teachers?
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School Teacher Professional Development in Online Communities of
Practice: A Systematic Literature Review
Khalid Md. Saifuddin and Majbrit Højland Strange
Aalborg University, Aalborg and Copenhagen, Denmark
khalid@learning.aau.dk,
mhmail44@gmail.com
Abstract: This study informs researchers of educational technology, teachers, teacher associations and moderators or
admins of online platforms who are interested in knowledge sharing among teachers within online communities of practice
(CoPs). The continuous professional development of teachers is primarily about improving their teaching practice. It includes
both formal and informal learning activities to transform attitudes, behaviour, skills and knowledge. Formal knowledge
sharing methods like training workshops have failed to deliver the desired on-demand, context-appropriate knowledge. On
the other hand, informal knowledge sharing through CoPs can transform teachers by contributing to their immediate context
or needs. There are various national and global IT platforms that are designed to enable teachers to participate and share
knowledge in a CoP but in many countries, online platforms for the professional development of teachers are relatively new.
This systematic literature review reports a qualitative synthesis of literature on in-service teachers’ online CoP participation.
It adheres to the five-step literature search and analysis process by Creswell (2012). Seven peer-reviewed articles were
included from 603 initial records. Applying an approach inspired by grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 1990), themes were
identified in each article and then grouped into seven categories as follows: (1) In the online communities of practice, in
which activities do teachers engage with one another? (2) What knowledge do teachers share in the online CoP? (3) What
motivates teachers to participate and share knowledge in the online CoPs? (4) What are the barriers to teachers’
participation and knowledge sharing in the online CoP? (5) What roles do moderators play in teachers’ online platforms? (6)
What are the perceived benefits of teachers’ online CoPs? (7) Which factors should be considered while developing online
platforms for teachers?
Keywords: school teacher, professional development, communities of practice, teacher knowledge sharing, teachers’
emotional development, barriers to online participation
1. Introduction
Web based platforms, particularly those designed and developed for school teachers, facilitate access to
authentic materials and experiences, eliminate physical boundaries and pose no time restrictions. The
innovation of such online communities of practice (CoPs) enables people “not just to do more of the same, but
to do something different, something powerful, something appropriate for all learners in the new millennium”
(Riel & Fulton, 2001:523). The framework for 21st Century learning, which re-envision students’ learning in the
rapidly evolving technological world, includes four broad skills categories: (1) core subjects (e.g., English,
mathematics and science) and 21st Century themes; (2) life and career skills; (3) learning and innovation skills;
and (4) information, media, and technology skills (Bellanca & Brandt, 2010). “The framework recognizes that
educational support systems – especially professional learning experiences – are vital” (Bellanca & Brandt, 2010).
Despite teachers’ time limitations, anecdotal evidence suggests that online platforms can contribute to the
development of professional learning experiences (Baek & Barab, 2005). Online platforms that cover one or
more of the 21st Century learning categories are rapidly growing and contribute to teachers’ knowledge sharing.
However, scientifically, the realization of teachers’ online CoPs within or beyond national boundaries is an
understudied area. Although online initiatives for professional development on an individual level or at school
level started some time ago, the same for school teachers is a new phenomenon in many countries’ national
strategies. Therefore, the purpose of this literature review is to summarise the findings on in-service teachers’
professional development and the role of online platforms designed for or adopted by school teachers towards
forming a community of practice.
The objective is to use a number of research questions to identify and categorize the themes that would
contribute to designing online platforms for school teachers’ professional competence development, and the
formation of CoPs. The review does not intend to answer a specific question but rather identify the scope for
further research.
The paper is structured as follows: First, it presents the key terms related to online CoPs to reflect on the
philosophical assumptions and practical premises. Second, the methods applied for literature selection and
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analysis are briefly reported. Third, a summary of the reviewed papers followed by a synthesis of articles is
reported by categorizing them in the form of questions.
2. Communities of practice
From a socio-cultural and historical perspective, Lave and Wenger (1991:98) defines a CoP as follows:
“A community of practice is a set of relations among persons, activity, and world, over time and in
relation with other tangential and overlapping communities of practice. [It] is an intrinsic condition
for the existence of knowledge, not least because it provides the interpretive support necessary for
making sense of its heritage. Thus, participation in the cultural practice in which any knowledge
exists is an epistemological principle of learning.”
Wenger’s architecture of learning includes four spaces or dimensions: participation and reification, the emergent
and the designed, the local and the global, and identification and negotiability (Wenger, 1998). Participation is
“the social experience of living in the world in terms of membership in social communities and active
involvement in social enterprise” (Wenger, 1998:55). Reification is “the process of communities and active
involvement in social enterprise”. These two processes are complementary. The designed and the emergent
dimensions are related to time; the designed activities for teaching and emergent learning activities are not the
same. The local and the global emphasize the context sensitivity and generalizability; this focuses on the
challenge of sharing local experiences in a way that will be useful and relevant for other contexts. The emphasis
of identification and negotiability is on resolving conflicts and “how the power to define, adapt, or interpret the
design is distributed” (Wenger, 1998:235).
Communities develop their practice through a range of activities like problem-solving, requests for information,
reusing assets, coordination and synergy, building on argument, growing confidence, discussing developments,
documenting projects, visits, and mapping knowledge and identifying gaps (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner,
2015). In keeping with different activities, CoPs are also known by other names such as thematic groups, learning
networks and tech clubs.
McClure, Wasco and Farad (2000) examined three CoPs to see why people participate and share knowledge
online. They applied three perspectives of knowledge: knowledge as an object (justified true belief), knowledge
as embedded in people (that which is known) and knowledge embedded in the community (the social practice
of knowing). The value of content were categorized into tangible returns (useful, valuable information, answer
to a specific question and personal gain), intangible returns (enjoyment/entertaining, learning, interaction with
a community, multiple viewpoints, peer group, altruism/pro-social behaviour, reciprocity or give something back
to community in return, advance the community) and barriers to participation (group related barriers caused by
undesired responses and obstacles to participate). While these findings might persuade school teachers to take
part in an online CoP, the teachers would also like to know what to expect from a CoP and how to achieve their
desired personal and community goals.
3. Method
This systematic review of literature is conducted adhering to Creswell’s five-step literature search and analysis
process (Creswell, 2012:81).
Identify key terms to use in your search for literature
Locate literature about a topic by consulting several types of materials and databases including those
available at an academic library and on the Internet
Critically evaluate and select the literature for your review
Organize the literature you have selected by abstracting or taking notes on the literature and developing a
visual diagram of it
Write a literature review that reports summaries of the literature for inclusion in your research report.
3.1 Identify key terms
Three searches were conducted using the keywords “teachers learning”, “development”, “online” and
“communities of practice". The keyword “teacher education" was discarded – the objective is to review in-
service teachers’ practices and not how teachers are educated.
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3.2 Locate the literature
The systematic literature search was conducted using Google Scholar through Publish or Perish software
(Harzing, 2012), and library-facilitated access to databases. The searches were restricted to English, peer-
reviewed, full-text accessible resources, and from 2000 to present.
3.3 Critically evaluate and select literature
Figure 1 illustrates the method of search, examination and assessment of suitability or exclusion which is based
on the PRISMA flow diagram (Liberati et al., 2009). First, 580 articles were identified through Publish or Perish
software (Harzing, 2012). The program sorted the articles by relevance and the first 100 articles were screened
considering their title, abstract and keywords. In the process, 94 of the 100 were excluded and 6 articles were
selected. The reasons for excluding some articles were one or more of the following: (1) The text's focus is
different from (elementary/primary/secondary) school teachers’ learning, (2) the central issues do not involve
online platform and teachers’ practice or participation, or (3) the text has another focus.
A second search was conducted on Proquest, using different combinations of the keywords "teachers”,
“learning", "development" and "virtual communities of practice”. This search returned 14 articles, 10 of which
were screened. Finally, a backward-chaining exercise identified nine more articles. The literature selection
process ended with 25 articles that were either journal papers or conference articles.
In the assessment phase, the 25 full texts were evaluated for their suitability and 18 were excluded, leaving
seven articles for systematic analysis and synthesis.
Figure 1: PRISMA flow diagram (Liberati et al., 2009)
3.4 Organize the literature and visualize it
In the results and discussion section, the seven articles are summarized by noting the research problem, the
research question, the data collection procedure and the findings, as suggested by Creswell (2012).
The process of analysis and synthesis followed an approach inspired by grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss,
1990). The identified themes were grouped into broader themes. When new themes were identified, they were
added to the list, and when a theme matched an existing theme, the article was marked against that theme on
IdentificationScre enin gEligibili tyIncluded
Records identified through
database searching
(n = 580 )
Additional records identified
through other sources
(n = 23)
Records screened
(n = 123)
Records excluded
(n = 98)
Full-text article assessed for
eligibilit y
(n = 25)
Full-tex t articles excluded, with
reasons
(n = 18)
Studies included in qualitative
synthesis
(n = 7)
Studies included in quantitative
synthesis (meta-analysis)
(n = 7)
Records after duplicates removed
(n = 603 )
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the list (Creswell, 2012). The visualization in Table 1 helps to see overlap amongst the findings in the articles
(Creswell, 2012) but the visualization of inter-theme relationships is not shown in this paper.
4. Results and discussion
This synthesis includes six journal papers and one conference article, all of which were published during 2005-
2014. Table 1 shows an overview of the themes, authors and the country of the institution they are affiliated
with, and the year of publication.
Baek and Barab (2005) write, “In order to illuminate potential difficulties which may arise when attempting to
design a framework to characterize or to build a CoP, this study describes the dynamics of five dualities (specific
areas of tension) that were identified during the design and testing period of […] a Web-based community for
teachers’ professional development” (p. 161). Their data includes document analyses, interviews with designers,
researchers and teachers, and observations of online and face-to-face meetings. Their research question is:
What aspects of the design were gradually changed? How, why and when were they changed from the initial
design? (p. 162).
Chen, Chen & Tsai (2009) examine six synchronous online discussions among the teachers on a course for
teachers' professional development. They look at 3600 messages and interview 10 teachers. The research
questions are designed to (1) examine the benefits and frequency of synchronous discussions from interaction
types, cognitive and metacognitive skills, and (2) learn how messages vary by time of posting and the
participating teachers’ perceptions towards the synchronous discussions of online teachers’ professional
development.
Duncan-Howell (2010) examines three different online communities in Australia based on a quantitative online
survey with 96 participants (from a local state-based community, a national online community and an
international one). The research question explores the online communities’ nature and Duncan-Howell offers
some conclusions about their potential and resources for professional learning for teachers (p. 327).
Gaillard & Rajić (2014) present “a case study of a successful community of practice developed under the
umbrella of Council of Europe Pestalozzi program for teacher development” (p. 457). The platform contains
different rooms, a reception area, a coffee shop, and professional development and exchange spaces. They
report the pros and cons of the virtual CoP.
Hew and Hara (2007) observe activity and messages on a national online platform for language teachers in the
United States. They examine a large mailing list. The research question is: What activities and knowledge do
teachers share with each other, and what are their motivators and barriers to sharing knowledge?
Hur and Brush (2009) examine online communities established by teachers themselves. They interview 23
teachers who participate in the independent online communities and analyse 2000 posts. They develop a case
study based on eight criteria. Their research question is (p. 283): “Why do teachers want to participate in self-
generated online communities of teachers?
Vavasseur and McGregor (2008): “This mixed method case study provides insights about how the professional
development of middle school teachers is facilitated through their participation in content-focused online CoP.
A key finding from this research reveals that the online community provided teachers with enhanced
opportunities to share ideas, to discuss issues, and to make new connections with colleagues as well as with
their principal” (p. 517). Their research questions are (p. 517): What was the focus of the interactions among
teachers while they participated in the online community of practice? How did teachers perceive the
participation of their school leaders in the online community?
4.1 What knowledge do teachers share in the online CoP?
The articles identified and suggested various approaches on how to initiate and increase participation in an
online platform for professionals.
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Table 1: Overview of the reviewed articles and identified themes
Year of publication
2005
2007
2008
2010
2014
2014
2014
Author(s)
Baek & Barab
Hew & Hara
Chen, Chen & Tsai
Duncan-Howell
Vavasseur &
MacGregor
Hur & Brush
Gaillard & Rajić.
Geographical distribution
USA
USA/
Singapore
Taiwan
Australia
USA
USA
Croatia
Article type: conference paper (C) / journal article (J)
J
J
J
J
J
J
C
Themes:
X
X
X
X
Technical complexity, technical insecurity
X
X
X
Who is participating in the platform? Is the communication private or
public?
X
X
X
The purpose of the community: Fulfil school reforms or daily practice?
X
X
Internet access
X
Need for new competencies and a language
X
X
Moderator or facilitator is essential for development
X
X
X
X
Monitoring and reflexivity over the learning process
X
X
X
X
X
Consideration for the design of the platform
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
What influence does it have on teachers when they participate in a
digital community of practice
X
X
X
Online discussions´ content
X
X
X
X
X
Most of the articles reported that teachers exchange professional knowledge, materials and teaching strategies
in the online CoP. Teachers also share feelings and concerns about their profession (Hur & Brush, 2009;
Vavasseur & Kim MacGregor, 2008)
Hew and Hara (2007) found that teachers share book knowledge, practical knowledge and cultural knowledge.
The most common types of knowledge shared were opinions, personal suggestions, book knowledge and
institutional practice. Practical knowledge, which refers to knowledge related to actual practice, were further
classified into one of the following three main categories: (a) personal opinion, (b) personal suggestion and (c)
institutional practice. Personal opinion refers to an individual opinion not necessarily representing best practice.
Duncan-Howell (2010:338) recognised that online communities proffer forums where teachers can discuss
strategy changes, gather evidence and make proposals for new strategies. Hur and Brush (2009:291) found that,
apart from knowledge sharing, feelings are also shared and this attracted the most attention.
Vavasseur and McGregor (2008) found that online discussions contain not only professional and resource issues,
but are also about the development of new materials, identifying problems and professional discussions about
students’ use of computer technology. The teachers and principals participated in a content-focused community
and posted on “teachers' perceptions of their personal computing efficacy, content-focused dialogue, and
concerns about students' use and misuse of technology” (p. 527).
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4.2 In the online CoP, with which activities do teachers engage with one another?
All the studies that analysed online content dealt with discussion forum posts. Out of their analysis of 630 online
messages, Hew & Hara (2007) found 9 types of activities that teachers share with each other: requests,
appreciation, official comments, announcements, apologies, clarification, compliments, empathy and
knowledge sharing.
Chen et al. (2009:1158) applied an analysis framework to categorize messages in four major dimensions:
participation rate, social cues [i.e. a statement which is not related to formal content or subject matter],
interaction types [i.e. direct response, indirect response, independent statement, other], cognitive and
metacognitive skills.” Cognitive skills are categorized and defined as elementary clarification, in-depth
clarification, inference, judgment and strategies. Metacognitive skills are categorized as evaluating, planning,
self-awareness and none.
4.3 Which factors should be considered while developing online platforms for teachers?
The articles reported five factors to the developers of online platforms: (1) the teachers’ influence, (2)
technology complexity, (3) communication opportunities, (4) the purpose of the platform and (5) the
participants’ different roles in communication.
First, the importance of the teachers’ influences on the design. Is it designed for teachers? Can the teachers
influence the design and thereby experience ownership? Baek and Barab (2005) pointed out that teachers want
designers who understand their culture. “To ensure that participants successfully engage in the learning process,
the content must address the needs of the teachers” (Duncan-Howell, 2010:337). Similarly, Duncan-Howell
(2010) pointed out: “For professional learning to be sustained and not limited to short programs, the mode of
delivery needs to suit teacher conditions and be sympathetic to their specific needs as learners”(Duncan-Howell,
2010:325).
Second, the complexity of the platform. The researchers are not in agreement whether complexity promotes or
discourages participation. Baek and Barab (2005:171) discovered that technical complexity could provide a sense
of community among the participating teachers since they work together to solve problems. On the other hand,
Baek, in Hur & Brush (2009:282), saw that a lack of technical support inhibits participation. Chen, Chen and Tsai's
results suggested that there must be space for the teachers in the daily schedule to include online professional
development. The teachers’ technological expertise and knowledge of online learning platforms differ and
access to the Internet and computers in the workplace have an impact on their online learning experience (Chen
et al., 2009:1156, 1163).
Third, is it a public or a private network? Is there an opportunity for both?
New social contingencies are required, in which participants are willing to engage in critical
dialogue about teaching practices […] The addition of a private place where small groups could
work together called for fundamental changes in the underlying assumptions of the ILF [Inquiry
Learning Forum ] design (Baek & Barab, 2005:172).
Gaillard and Rajić (2014) agreed that private versus public network access should be taken into consideration;
The European network they studied only accommodates projects and suggested a design with spaces for
professionals across projects.
Fourth, the developer must consider the purpose. Hur & Brush (2009) found that the developers of online
communities need to be more aware of the teachers' emotional sharing and the need to promote professional
self-confidence. “To create a Web-supported community as a vehicle for education reform is not to build a single
technical tool, but rather to create a socio-technical network” (Baek & Barab, 2005:176). Is the network a
platform for the introduction of a school reform? Who participates in the network – only teachers or is it opened
for the principal and others? What internal and external borders does the community have? (Baek & Barab,
2005:174).
Finally, the platform should provide scope for users to have different participatory roles. Many teachers might
want to participate anonymously so that they can share problems that they cannot discuss at their local school
(Hew & Hara, 2007). Some argue that anonymity help them to contemplate the situation objectively (Hur &
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Brush, 2009). Lurkers are also named as participants in online communities; lurkers are people who read posts
but don´t write posts themselves (Hur & Brush, 2009).
In summary, developers must be aware of teacher culture and context, the purpose of the platform, the
complexity of the technology and that teachers have different abilities and needs. Developers must understand
the community’s target users (and their variations) and allow the opportunity to share emotional experiences.
The CoP must provide space for different participatory roles such as anonymous users and lurkers. "However
technically well-designed, a network does not necessary guarantee active participation" (Baek & Barab,
2005:172). It is important to design networks in such a way that a prospective and desired participant is not
prevented or discouraged.
4.4 What motivates teachers to participate and share knowledge in the online CoP?
Teachers participate in CoPs because of their professional needs and for emotional support (Duncan-Howell,
2010). They also participate when the discussions focus on classroom strategies or themes relevant to them.
Teachers’ average online community participation is approximately 1.5 hours a week, translating to 60-80 hours
a year (Duncan-Howell, 2010:338). Hur & Brush (2009) found five reasons why teachers participate: to share
feelings about teaching, to find opportunities in online environments, to combat isolation, to explore ideas and
to experience companionship. They referred to Vasconcelos who concludes that “the most crucial aspect of an
online community is not the information shared in the communities, but rather the sense of belonging that
participation engenders” (Vasconcelos in Hur & Brush, 2009:291–299).
Seven motivators to share knowledge were found: collectivism, positive feedback, personal gain, altruism,
technology, a respectful environment and interest from other teachers (Hew & Hara, 2007:583–586). The ideal
seems to be a culture borne of collectivism and positive feedback, requiring both professional discussions and
emotional support, and supporting the need to belong while avoiding isolation.
4.5 What are the barriers to teachers’ participation and knowledge sharing in the online CoP?
Hew & Hara (2007) found five barriers to participation and knowledge sharing: lack of knowledge, lack of time
(or competing priorities), uncertainty in the application of the technology, not wanting to cause a controversy
and a negative attitude towards the information seeker (including egocentric attempts to reserve knowledge).
Chen et al. (2009) identified barriers to be teachers’ lack of technical computer expertise, their unfamiliarity with
online communities and limited access to computer and Internet resources and services (i.e. restricted to
working hours in the workplace).
Vavasseur and McGregor (2008) discovered that unresolved or high expectations from principals could hinder
teachers from actively engaging in learning communities. Baek & Barab (2005) reported that several teachers
were unable to express themselves or perform well online as they were afraid of being criticized by colleagues;
their only online comments were superficial.
Gaillard and Rajić (2014) concluded that further research is needed to understand why some teachers participate
and others do not. It would be interesting to gain insight into the characteristics that push practitioners towards
a more reflective practice.
To summarize, the barriers perceived by teachers are time, technology, access, lack of knowledge and emotional
barriers such as fear of criticism, negative attitude, the principals’ involvement and a lack of language skills.
4.6 What roles do the moderators play in teachers’ online platforms?
A moderator is a steward in an online community of practice; the role establishes a human presence to
coordinate the CoP fellowship, lead meaningful and goal-orientated dialogues and help members develop
(Gaillard & Rajić, 2014). Vavasseur and McGregor (2008) found that thought-provoking questions from the
facilitator who supported the discussions, garner more participation and that the availability of technical help is
a key to success. The moderator significantly contributes to solving or circumventing technology barriers and
avoiding misunderstandings that arise through the lack of body language and tone (Hew & Hara, 2007).
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A moderator’s participation and other roles is essential to the participants' learning (Chen et al., 2009). When a
moderator qualifies the discussion, the participants get involved and contribute with cognitive and
metacognitive reflections. The learning outcome is increased if the teachers are monitoring and regulating their
students’ knowledge and learning process during the discussion (Chen et al., 2009). Reflexivity, understood as
committed reflexive conversations between participants, is the reason why online communities succeed and
give control to the individual teacher. Committed, detailed questions increase motivation and receive positive
responses. However, when a principal initiates discussions, the participants feel that he or she is breathing over
their shoulders or inspecting them (Vavasseur & Kim MacGregor, 2008).
Pedagogy, the knowledge and practice of teaching, is improved by a process of critical reflection in a community
of educators (Kemmis, 1989 in Duncan-Howell, 2010:326). In addition to monitoring the discussions, teachers
must develop a new competence: increased learning through online discussions. This happens by focusing on
the topic, engaging participants in deep learning, engaging in meaningful discourse and by involving cognitive
and metacognitive skills (Chen et al., 2009).
4.7 What are the perceived benefits of teachers’ online CoPs?
Digital platforms help develop teachers to become more reflexive and mature their competence as technology
providers or facilitators. The interviews by Hew and Hara (2007) suggested that online knowledge sharing help
teachers to achieve new insights and ideas regarding the subject material and remain up to date in their subject
area. Gaillard & Rajić (2014) also found that learning takes place in the CoP when teachers share their experience
and offer informed opinions. Duncan-Howell (2010) found that the network offers the opportunity to be
introduced to new ideas and to teaching methods improved by a process of critical reflection in a community of
educators. The varieties of professional learning opportunities offer meaningful professional development. Hur
and Brush (2009) explained how sharing ideas and tips with other teachers online can assist teachers not only
with new ideas but also to reflect on their teaching strategies. Vavasseur & Kim MacGregor (2008) showed that
teachers use humour among themselves in their learning process and that they value the use of a computer to
grow their teaching practice. They receive curriculum-based knowledge, increase confidence in implementing
technology and participate in the development of internal academic subjects.
In summary, the studies indicate that online communities of practice increase the teachers’ professionalism,
augment their experience and update their subject knowledge through discussions and affiliations in an online
community of practice. Teachers achieve a reflexive level that strengthens their self-confidence and teaching
practice as technology facilitators.
5. Conclusion
The seven articles reviewed show that there is great variation in the design, structure and use of virtual
communities. However, this review is concerned with the online community’s role in teacher practice
development and what effect the platforms’ design may have.
Online CoPs include opportunities for professional discussions and sharing of professional resources, materials
and teaching strategies. Additionally, teachers discuss didactics, pedagogical issues and changes. Hew and Hara
(2007) found that knowledge sharing and emotional sharing takes place among teachers. A future study might
investigate how the construction of the platform supports both knowledge and emotional sharing; especially,
does the design impact on what is shared?
The investigations highlighted a number of areas that designers should consider to ensure that the design and
development of the online platform do not pose barriers to teachers. The articles concluded that developers
should:
Know the teachers´ culture and context
Know the community/network's purpose
Consider the complexity of the platform - teachers come with different needs and requirements
Know the purpose of the platform
Give the opportunity to share emotional experiences
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Allow different roles and visibility levels such as anonymous responders and lurkers.
It is evident that there are motivating factors for as well as barriers to teachers’ participation and knowledge
sharing in online CoPs. It appears that a culture of collectivism and positive feedback predominates among
teachers when it comes to the exchange of knowledge and professional resources. They seek out professional
didactic coaching and value emotional support; the online community offers a sense of belonging and helps
teachers avoid professional isolation. On the contrary, teachers’ professional workday schedules are perceived
as a barrier, along with a lack of technological skills and lack of knowledge. This perceived barrier discourages
teachers from participating. Finally, there may be an emotional barrier that causes teachers to avoid
participation or to participate only superficially. This emotional barrier is triggered by a fear of criticism, leaders
or facilitators who want to control dialogue rather than lead it, or a lack of linguistic skills to give and receive
constructive criticism.
The literature suggested two main factors that are essential for professional development and positive learning
outcomes through online communities: a suitable facilitator/moderator and a good structure for
communication. First, a good facilitator is essential to moderate the framing and qualifying process of an online
discussion, to lead teachers to the desired reflexive level and to help them benefit optimally from their
participation. Topics for future study could include (1) What moderator questions would create a "good" online
CoP for teachers? and (2) What qualifies a person as a moderator compared to other participants? These
questions are not addressed in the reviewed articles. The second essential factor for any CoP is how its structure
enables convenient communication; the premise is that all participants must have a common interest in the
theme (Wegner, 2002 in Hew & Hara, 2007:575).
Online CoPs offer various opportunities but they also necessitate the development of new skills (i.e. IT skills and
other), to manage various threads and participate in the different roles. This could also be a future research
topic: How can teachers learn about the different online participation and facilitation categories and the
required skills for these?
None of the reviewed articles investigated different school cultures as an element that might impede teachers’
participation in global online communities. However, inter-cultural exchange through online CoPs has been
discussed in existing literature.
Last, the literature suggested that national and international online CoPs for teachers can build competence and
contribute to educational development locally, nationally and globally, depending on the scope, language,
content, access and other factors of the platform.
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... Duncan-Howell (2010) found that 77% of teachers surveyed had been exposed to new ideas or resources through online communities that they later implemented in their classroom. The types of activities that educators engage with in an online CPE space include, but are not limited to: (a) finding and sharing knowledge, such as strategies, resources, ideas, opinions, suggestions; (b) sharing experiences and stories; (c) reflecting on personal practice; (d) asking or answering questions; (e) seeking emotional support and camaraderie; and (f ) viewing information on new initiatives, trends, and policies (Trust, 2016;Macià & García, 2016;Booth & Kellogg, 2014;Duncan-Howell, 2010;Saifuddin & Strange, 2016). Always-present resources and activities in online communities allow for much greater time for reflection and contribution, which often results in more participation and generally a more meaningful experience, as discussions and content do not disappear and are readily available when needed most (Cranton, 2016). ...
... • Encourages application or "try-outs" to contextualize information and conversations and can be supported by a work-based learning community (Prestridge, 2016;Macià & García, 2016). • Allows active sharing and communication (Barnett, Harwood, Keating, & Saam, 2002;Saifuddin & Strange, 2016). • Program is led or moderated by a knowledgeable practitioner (Barnett et al., 2002;Saifuddin & Strange, 2016). ...
... • Allows active sharing and communication (Barnett, Harwood, Keating, & Saam, 2002;Saifuddin & Strange, 2016). • Program is led or moderated by a knowledgeable practitioner (Barnett et al., 2002;Saifuddin & Strange, 2016). • Includes opportunity for practical, theoretical, and especially reflective experiences (Engelbrecht & Ankiewicz, 2015;Prestridge, 2016;Cranton, 2016). ...
Chapter
The rapid spread of the Internet and creation of Web 2.0 tools has allowed connections across time and place, meaningful collaboration between peers of all experience levels, and the sharing of knowledge and resources that were previously not possible with traditional face-to-face modes of continuing professional education (CPE). User-to-user and user-to-site interactions pushed websites from static information-only pages to content development mechanisms built and curated by their audience. This evolution of the web not only supported active engagement in it’s users but also provided broad access to learning opportunities through social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest; Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Udacity, Coursera, and edX; or industry-specific communities of practice such as Edutopia for education (Prestridge, 2016; Song & Lee, 2014). It is in these dynamic spaces that participants are building their own learning path in CPE, and it is this technological advancement that has promoted the widespread distribution of CPE in a distance education format. This chapter presents an overview of the technologies that shape and shift recent trends and directions in CPE and discusses how CPE has evolved in a variety of fields accordingly. It should be noted that there is varying terminology for “continuing professional education” in different fields, often used interchangeably, including “professional development” or simply “continuing education.” Likewise, the terms “online” and “web-based” were tantamount to “distance” in literature.
... As indicated by research, CoPs can play a key role in learning: they encourage socially mediated learning through pragmatic knowledge networks (Allee, 2000;Gunawardena et al., 2009;Hildreth & Kimble, 2004;Schønheyder & Nordby, 2018), they facilitate peer assessment and reflection (Rourke & Coleman, 2009) and they provide valuable support for novices through LPP (Johnston, 2016;Stone et al., 2017;Woo, 2015) across educational, industrial and governmental sectors (Bate & Robert, 2002;Khalid & Strange, 2016;Pattinson & Preece, 2014;Tight, 2015). ...
... Technology-supported or virtual CoPs (Nistor & Fischer, 2012) have also been widely adopted over the past two decades. VCoPs make use of configurations that accommodate certain CoP activities by bundling different platforms and software tools (Khalid & Strange, 2016;E. Wenger, 2009). ...
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This work investigates the social collaboration and creative outcomes of teams of learners in Higher Education (HE) Design studies, in the context of cross-organizational (university/industry) Communities of Practice (CoP). These refer to groups of people who share a common interest in a field and connect to co-create knowledge. The study focuses on the feedback delivered by the industrial members of the CoP through the means of collaboration technologies, to complement academic feedback. Findings have shown a twofold effect on learners. On the one hand, critical feedback on the deliverables increased both the time-pressure and the complexity of the work, affecting the teams’ perception of their performances. On the other hand, feedback appeared to inspire better creative outcomes while improving the teams’ metacognitive activity and learning regulation. Furthermore, it enabled learners to pragmatically realize their status within the broader geography of professional practice and reconfigure their achievement goals accordingly. These findings confirm the contribution of cross-organizational CoPs in HE and are discussed with reference to CoPs theory and modes of belonging as fundamental for learning and identity evolution.
... The third finding of the study revealed that among all the sub-dimensions of PLCs, Principals' Commitment and Support achieved the highest mean score whereas External Support System achieved the lowest mean score. Empirical research consistently demonstrates that principals' leadership and commitment is one of the critical components in facilitating school-based PLCs (Cordingley, 2015;Hallinger & Lee, 2011;Hord & Sommers, 2008;Olivier & Hipp, 2010;Khalid & Strange, 2016;. According to Cordingley (2015), school leaders play a crucial role in supporting professional learning and sustaining improvements in practice by providing sufficient resources and time, sourcing relevant expertise and opportunities, and specifically in working together with teachers who are reluctant to engage in PLCs. ...
... Hord and Sommers (2008) highlight that school principals are the lynchpins of school reform and are in a strategic position to lead and provide support required for a learning school specifically in creating a culture of collaboration for improving instruction. In the same vein, Khalid and Strange (2016) emphasize the significance of school leaders in providing a safe and challenging climate conducive in building deep collaboration within PLCs in the schools. ...
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The purpose of the study was to develop an empirical School Leadership Competency Model for the era of Education 4.0 (SLCMEduc4.0) to identify school leadership competencies that facilitate and maximise effectiveness in leading sustainable schools in Malaysia. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) was employed to identify the underlying factors whereas Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was applied to test the measurement models using Structural Equation Modelling. A total of 444 and 931 respondents completed the survey with usable data for EFA and CFA, respectively. The results suggested that the SLCMEdu4.0 can be explained by eight factors namely; Leading for Learning, Emotional Intelligence, Critical Thinking, Communication and Ethics, Collaboration, Decision Making and Problem Solving, Digital Dexterity and Entrepreneurial with good fit statistics; normed = 2.628, TLI = .950, CFI = .954 and RMSEA = .042. The SLCMEduc4.0 is a coherent premier model that provides useful feedback for practitioners in planning, designing and evaluating future professional development programmes for school leaders.
... While some studies have addressed teacher professional growth through communities of practice (Khalid & Strange, 2016), the literatures on vCops and teacher professional development is very scarce. Given this, few findings and recommendations Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. ...
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceived effectiveness of a virtual community of practice (vCoP) designed to support knowledge and expertise sharing between K-12 teachers during Covid-19 pandemic. Besides, it aimed at exploring the potential of such vCoPs in delivering effective professional development, in general, and during crisis in particular. The vCoP was developed by the researcher herself as part of a consultancy to the UNESCO. The sample included 696 participants who were members of the vCoP. The research methodology adopted was mixed methods. Quantitative data was collected through surveying; and qualitative data was collected through 8 focus group interviews each involving 6 participants. Statistical analysis was used to analyze survey data, while interviews data was analyzed using theme-based analysis. Findings showed that participants viewed vCoPs as effective tools for e-professional development in general and during crisis in particular. Facilitators and blockers confronting vCoP nourishment are presented and discussed. Discussions and conclusions are offered at the end of the study.
... Frumin et al. (2018) [61] found that only about half of their survey respondents used the APTC and many of the participants in the online community were what is known as 'lurkers' (i.e., individuals who observe but do not actively participate-something we discuss further below). They also find (and this is echoed in Khalid and Strange, 2016) [60] that PLC members can struggle to feel safe (e.g., from criticism or judgement) or able (e.g., technological, cultural or expert knowledge) to fully participate in the community. Some survey respondents in Frumin et al. (2018, p. 415) [61] 'note that the online community does not always feel safe given the employed moderation techniques (or lack thereof) and/or the domination (or bullying) by a few strong voices.' ...
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Initial and continuing teacher education are increasingly making use of remote and blended modes of education. Conducted in the summer of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, this rapid review brings together literature and evidence to inform planning for remote and blended teacher education during restrictions in face-to-face teaching activity. The review consists of three main parts: first, a descriptive framework of modes of remote and blended teacher education; second, an exploratory review of the affordances and limitations of remote and blended approaches connecting the literature on effective teacher education with reviews of remote and blended approaches; third, a rapid review of evidence on the efficacy of remote and blended approaches, including of a small number of studies comparing these to face-to-face equivalents. We conclude that remote and blended teacher education is likely to become an increasingly important part of the teacher education landscape and there are plausible theoretical reasons suggesting that it can be effective with suitable design. However, we find too few studies presenting robust evidence to enable firm conclusions to be drawn on the relative effectiveness of modes and approaches. The review provides a foundation for further research and practice in this area.
... Further, Buabeng-Andoh (2012) made a review on teachers' adoption of ICT in teaching practice, which reported two system-level barriers: (1) the rigid structure of traditional education systems, and (2) the restricted structure of educational organizations, in addition to three factors influencing ICT adoption in teaching including ICT knowledge, attitude, and received TPD. More recently, Saifuddin and Strange (2016) reviewed the studies on online communities of practice (CoP) in TPD and summarized the benefits of CoP for TPD (i.e., increasing teachers' professionalism, and helping teachers to update subject knowledge through online interaction) as well as the barriers to such practices (lack of time, lack of knowledge and technology, and teachers' negative attitudes). ...
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The rapid development of information and communication technology (ICT) has been increasingly changing the ways of teaching and learning and teacher development. While the literature shows a proliferation of studies exploring various issues of applying ICT in teacher development and teaching practice, there is a lack of overview of the literature in this field. This study aimed to address the gap by reviewing the literature in two themes: (1) ICT in teacher professional development (TPD), and (2) ICT in teaching practice. Six journals of a high impact in the field of teaching and teacher education were selected, from which 85 articles involving ICT applications and published from 2013 to 2019 were identified. Among them, 18 empirical articles highly relevant to the two themes were analysed. The content analysis of these publications identified a set of specific ICT applications in TPD and in teaching practice. Moreover, the analysis revealed the key features of these ICT applications in terms of their functions, their effects on teaching and teacher development, the factors influencing their applications, and the problems in existing applications.
... tools (Khalid & Strange, 2016;Wenger, 2009). By transcending space and time, and often cultural limitations, technology is the ideal means by which remote members of a cross-organizational CoP can collaborate. ...
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... In Malaysia, e-learning is accessible and used by all teachers such as e-Teachers Portal, Online i-Think Course (KiDT), Virtual Learning Environment (VLE FROG), Public Sector e-Learning (EPSA) and other portals that enhance teacher professionalism (KPM, 2016). According to Khalid & Strange (2016) there are several factors that hinder the participation and knowledge of online teacher sharing. Some of the barriers are teacher professional work schedules, lack of technology skills and lack of technology knowledge and emotional barriers that make teachers less involved in online learning. ...
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... Substantial research on PLCs has emphasized the importance of school leaders in transforming schools as learning organizations within the learning system. For example, Cordingley (2015), Khalid and Strange (2016), Vangrieken et al. (2017) highlighted that the school leaders play a critical supportive role in fostering and sustaining PLCs. If school leaders practise relational leadership that is vision-driven rather than position-driven, or a collaborative role instead of a supervisory role, it would foster a positive evaluation of teachers toward the efforts taken and this in turn would encourage the teachers to engage in developing and sustaining PLCs in schools. ...
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This study explores the role of teachers within online communities of practice (CoP). By employing mixed methods in a sequential explanatory manner. This study makes use of a questionnaire followed by interviews. By exploring the roles of teachers within an online CoP. Key theories are identified as part of the framework for exploration including learning as ‘social activity’ (Vygotsky, 1978, p.57). The study further explores key concepts concerning the ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) and 'legitimate peripheral participation' (LPP). Exploring how teachers utilise ‘scaffolding’ and ‘LPP’ within an online CoP (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Strong evidence has been found in this exploratory study in support of the definition and concept of CoP (Wenger et al., 2002, pp.4). Key findings include a range of benefits reported by teachers during interviews and statistical analysis of the questionnaire responses. The most frequently reported benefit with 91% is sharing information. Finding information is a close second with 87% the third most frequent is learning from others 74%. Findings such as these helped shed light on the role of teachers within an online CoP. Along the way, comparisons are made to other studies supporting and contrasting findings.
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The concept of a community of practice (CoP) is prevalent in several venues for teachers' professional development, especially in online environments. However, there are few descriptive accounts that effectively represent a CoP in a manner that will be of use to other designers. In order to illuminate potential difficulties which may arise when attempting to design a framework to characterize or to build a CoP, this study describes the dynamics of five dualities (specific areas of tension) that were identified during the design and testing period of the Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF), a Web-based community for teachers' professional development. During the three-year design trajectory of the ILF, these five dualities emerged from and characterized the interactions between the participating teachers and the site designers. As part of the data collection for this study, we conducted document analyses, interviews with designers, researchers, and teachers, and observations of online and face-to-face meetings. The findings of this study are intended to help future Web-designers both to better realize the full potential of online professional development environments and to avoid potential design development issues which may hamper the utility or participation rates in newly created CoPs.
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This mixed method case study provides insights about how the professional development of middle school teachers is facilitated through their participation in content-focused online communities of practice. A key finding from this research reveals that the online community provided teachers with enhanced opportunities to share ideas, to discuss issues, and to make new connections with colleagues as well as with their principal. In addition, teachers gained curriculum-based knowledge, developed enhanced self-efficacy with respect to implementing technology, and collaborated on the development of interdisciplinary curriculum units.
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The clear and practical writing of Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Researchhas made this book a favorite. In precise step-by-step language the book helps you learn how to conduct, read, and evaluate research studies. Key changes include: expanded coverage of ethics and new research articles.
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