Communities of practice: the shared experiences of higher education faculty

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Southern New Hampshire University
This phenomenological study aims to give a voice to higher education faculty as they continue answering to demands of accreditation accountability while continuing to take on the challenge of serving their increasingly diverse student populations. This study investigated faculty experiences in communities of practice (CoPs) as one way to provide faculty with an opportunity to engage each other in conversations and share different perspectives and understandings in relation to their own professional backgrounds and pedagogical practice (Wenger, 1997). The study asks the question: How do faculty members participating in a community of practice describe perceived change(s) in professional practice? A phenomenological research approach was used to capture the essence of the “what” and “how” of the shared experiences in CoP participation (Creswell, 2013). Nine faculty members from an institute of higher education were interviewed and transcripts were analyzed to identify significant statements relevant to their CoP participation. The significant statements were then reduced to twenty-nine meaning clusters and then grouped into four themes. An analysis of findings indicated that faculty participants shared a deep sense of belonging that linked to the relationships formed within their CoP. Faculty participants revealed that their perceived sense of belonging and relationships reinforced their efforts to learn more about themselves as learners and professional educators. Additional data showed that diverse perspectives based on professional backgrounds and experiences provided rich contexts for conversations and helped faculty participants to build university-wide connections. (Author abstract)