This study examined Communities of Practice (CoPs) composed of senior teacher educators. Our goals were: (1) to identify factors that contribute to or hinder the success of CoPs, (2) to consider the characteristics that help CoP coordinators be effective leaders. The research used qualitative data-collection and analysis. It targeted inter-organizational CoPs supported by the MOFET Institute in Israel, interviewing 23 participants and 12 coordinators of 13 different CoPs.
Factors perceived as contributing to a community’s successful functioning were: choosing a topic relevant to community members, engaging in activities that contribute to participants’ professional development and establishing positive interpersonal relationships between community members. Hindering factors were essentially the absence of the aforementioned characteristics and technical difficulties. Participants claimed that community coordinators needed to balance their own leadership with participants’ initiatives, while addressing the community’s needs. The findings suggest that inter-institutional CoPs can serve as a framework for educational leaders’ professional development and may inform their planning.
Background - The MOFET Institute
The study was conducted at the MOFET Institute in Israel. MOFET is a non-profit organization established by the Ministry of Education in order to provide professional development opportunities to teacher educators. In addition to its academic programs, MOFET provides support to think tanks and CoPs. These CoPs consist of faculty members who hold equivalent educational leadership positions within their respective teacher education colleges. Thus, there are CoPs for heads of age-related teaching programmes (such as early childhood education), discipline-based CoPs (teaching English, sciences, etc.) and CoPs for other educational leaders (such as school of education deans). This study explores participants’ perceptions concerning factors that promote CoPs’ success.
The present study suggests that teacher educators in educational leadership roles find CoPs to be beneficial frameworks for professional development. CoPs can provide them with social and emotional support and enhance their individual professional development as well as that of their colleges. Inter-institutional CoPs can, therefore, be viewed as a much-needed form of long term and sustainable professional development that is performed in collaboration with colleagues. CoPs’ activities are closely linked to participants’ practices and meet their specific needs. Furthermore, they can afford open dialogue between policymakers, educators and academics, and support better policymaking by promoting and critically reviewing new initiatives, thus eliminating unintended consequences.