SoTL academics have long recognised the value of communities of practice for collaborative inquiry and shared learning. A thriving community of practice can be a powerful space for like-minded academics to reflect, review and share educational practices.
Now in an era dominated by the knowledge economy, the concept has acquired more significance. Organizational communities of practice are increasingly relied on to tap into the expertise of a global workforce and leverage valuable distributed knowledge for innovation.
Recognising a similar need to develop a global community of practice for Education Focussed academics, Dr Janis Wardrop (Deputy Head of School, Director of Education and Senior Lecturer at the School of Management) and Associate Professor Leanne Piggott (WIL Central Academic Director and Centre for Social Impact Education Director) ran a highly successful workshop on the subject, at the bi-annual Management & Organizational Behaviour Teaching Society (i-MOBTS) international conference.
The workshop - 'Building a global community of teaching academics' – explored the manifestations of international communities of practice and the ways in which they can be effectively used to support educators in higher education. “There is nothing like this at the moment, on a global scale, for academics who are passionate about teaching,” Dr Wardrop observes. “After interacting with like-minded peers in conferences, I realised that there are a lot of dedicated educators who are not being viewed as tenurable academics, who are not treated as equals at the table, despite the wealth of experience and expertise that they bring. This inspired me to come up with the idea of a workshop.”
Associate Professor Piggott weighs in, “The workshop had some key aims: (a) to be an inclusive forum for sharing experiences with other passionate teaching academics, (b) to provide leadership in this space by showcasing the holistic institutional support to EF academics at UNSW, and (c) to gather opinions and evaluate the possibility of a future global community of practice in the discipline (management and organisational behaviour).”
“We were successful on all fronts – there was an unmistakable sense of commitment towards the development of a purposeful, formalised community of practice where international academics can come together to nurture and support collaborative inquiry, and contribute to the growth of a global community of extraordinary teachers.”
The workshop participants were also impressed by the institutional support afforded to EFs at UNSW. “We are very fortunate that UNSW not only subscribes to SoTL practices but is actually committed to supporting education focussed staff with resources,” says Associate Professor Piggott. “UNSW is so much further ahead of our North American counterparts in this space. And the response to the workshop showed us that there is an appetite to learn from institutions like ours.”
The two EFs are keen to pick up the conversation in June; they have been invited by the President of the MOBTS to present at their annual national conference at Purdue University, Fort Wayne. “It is a much larger event. We are hoping to capitalise on the interest that our workshop has generated earlier this year, and build a strong foundation for a global EF community of practice."
MOBTS hosts a premier international experiential learning Society and Conference of management sciences, which is now entering its 46th year. It also publishes highly respected journals in SoTL – Journal of Management Education.