This paper will discuss the necessary or essential characteristics that are required to form a Community of Practice and I will investigate how these characteristics materialise in an existing community, using the Coderdojo as the example. I will discuss what the characteristics are, how I came to these characteristics and why they are essential to a COP.
This paper is aimed at the CSCW/C&T and Coderdojo Community. I am investigating the areas of Communities of Practice for STEM education. I am looking to build a COP to enhance STEM learning for second level students but before doing so I am investigating what characteristics are needed to make a successful COP and how these characteristics materialise and evolve in an existing COP (i.e. Coderdojo). I am tackling this area because currently there is a vast amount of literature available on Communities of Practice, but the literature lacks in the area of identifying the essential characteristics needed to form a successful COP and mapping it against an existing COP. I will present a literature review of Communities of Practice, presenting the different definitions and characteristics from the literature along with other related work. I will discuss the procedure of thematic analysis I used to extract the characteristics from the literature and how I categorised them into themes to describe the necessary characteristics of a COP. I will then discuss how these characteristics materialise in an existing community through the analysis of ten semi-structured interviews with Coderdojo mentors in Cork. I will present the procedure of Content analysis I followed, along with desk research, to map the characteristics against the Coderdojo. Finally I will present my findings from the analysis and discuss them, explaining why these characteristics are essential to form a COP and how they can be implemented in a COP using the Coderdojo as the example. Future work will be concerned with the work I plan to conduct as a follow on from this study and the conclusion will summarise everything I have discussed in the paper.
This section will contain all of my research on Communities of Practice (definitions and characteristics) and it will also contain research on other community investigations/studies, other people who have investigated communities of practice, etc.
Procedure & Methodology:
This section will describe the procedure I followed to conduct my study and the research methodology I implemented. I will discuss my qualitative research – I will discuss the ten semi-structured interviews I conducted with ten Coderdojo mentors, how I conducted these interviews (audio recorded & interview notes with permission of participant), who my participants were (male, female, age group, etc.), what questions I asked (questions were mapped back to the COP characteristics/themes), where the interviews took place (at the location of each individual dojo). I will discuss the process of thematic analysis I followed to extract the characteristics from the literature and how I established themes, naming the themes. I will discuss the content analysis procedure I followed along with the desk research I conducted to analyse the interview data against the themes established from the thematic analysis. I will outline why I chose these methods of analysis (most common forms of analysis for qualitative research). I will outline why I chose to investigate the Coderdojo movement (access to over 20 dojo in Cork, etc.). I will also include a page about the Coderdojo movement, what it does, how it operates, etc.
In this section I will present the key analysis from the interview data. I will present the ‘best examples’ of raw data from the interviews to represent each theme/characteristic in the Coderdojo, discussing how that theme materialises in the particular Coderdojo in question. The themes are:
- Develop, Grow & Mature the COP (Governance)
- Sharing knowledge & Collaboration (Purpose)
- Collaboration develops the practice of a COP (Collaboration)
- The development of the practice through activities (Activities)
- Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Participation)
- An active core group allows for limitless number of participants (Size)
- Global COP with members geographically distributed depend on ICT to connect with each other (Location)
- Communication improves relationships within a COP (Communication)
- Situated Learning (Learning)
- Construction, creation and sharing of new knowledge (Knowledge Management)
- Awareness of each other’s competencies (Awareness)
Results and Findings:
In this section I will present the results and findings I established from my analysis section. And again I will use the best examples of raw data to illustrate these findings. At present the findings are:
- A COP can only develop, grow and mature if the COP implements a design for evolution, appropriate etiquette, a combination of excitement and familiarity, etc. Each dojo displays different ways of developing, growing and maturing. One dojo saw its mentor create and start up the dojo following encouragement from his own mentor at another dojo he participated in.
- The purpose of any COP is to share knowledge and to learn how to solve a problem or concern shared by the members through regular interaction. The primary purpose of the dojos is to teach children how to code but some mentors also want to make the children aware of coding before they make third level choices; teach them the skill of problem-solving and one mentor also saw it as a social opportunity. Mentors share their knowledge with the participants and the participants share knowledge with each other.
- There is little or no collaboration between the dojos. Although there is collaboration between participants, mentors and the participants and mentors in each dojo, only two dojos have collaborated with the broader Coderdojo community.
- Each dojo develops its practice through coding activities although the activities of each dojo is different. Some participants work alone, some work in groups, some work on projects while others follow the activities set out by the mentor. The vast majority of the activities take place within the classroom each week.
- All members of a COP go through a process of legitimate peripheral participation. One mentor began as a participant of a dojo before setting up his own; another mentor was a casual volunteer before becoming a full time mentor and now he is chairperson of the coderdojo committee. Participants also move through a process of legitimate peripheral participation as they move from being participants to mentors of new participants.
- Due to a lack of mentors and space available, the number of participants in some dojos is limited to a certain number each week.
- COP can be located locally or globally. The Coderdojos as part of this study are all located locally and they meet once a week for a class.
- There is no evidence from the interviews that communication improved relationships between mentors, participants or between mentors and participants. The mentors communicated via texts or emails. One dojo uses an online Discord Communication Channel to communicate with mentors and participants outside of the class each week. Most participants attend the dojo each week.
- The participants of a dojo engage in a process of situated learning. They learn by doing. The participants are actively involved in coding each week whether it’s creating a website, game, app or project. The learning is informal.
- Mentors and participants construct new knowledge through their participation in the Coderdojo. The mentors learn about the challenges of being a mentor and how to overcome them while the participants create their own knowledge of coding and programming through participation in the dojo. Mentors share their knowledge with the participants and the participants share their knowledge with each other.
- Mentors are aware of a participant’s ability through regular interaction with them each week. They are aware of what standard of coding they are at.
In this section I will discuss the general findings listed above, why they are important, how they may be able to contribute to and/or help fill existing gaps in the field, how the findings from my study may reveal new gaps in the literature which were not already exposed.
Summary of what I discussed in the paper. Summary of my study, the procedure I followed, the results I established and what they mean for the community (CSCW/C&T)
What I plan to do next; how I plan to expand on my current research to enrich it and to make it more comprehensive based on the limitations of my current research. I plan to establish what characteristics are required at what stage of setting up a COP and then implement them by beginning to engage with teachers and Coderdojo mentors to form a COP. I would like to expand on this research to conduct observational studies in the same Coderdojos to enrich the data set already collected.
H2020 project, etc.
Communities of Practice; Coderdojo; thematic analysis; content analysis; etc.