Revisiting and rethinking the structural elements of a Community of Practice

Over the past two months I have been busy working on writing a paper which I have now submitted to NordiCHI 2018. This paper is titled “Revisiting and rethinking the structural elements of a Community of Practice”. This paper describes a multi-phase study I conducted which I will briefly describe below.

Phase 1 of the study involved an extensive literature review of the term COP with a particular focus on research that explored how they were formed and how they develop over time. This literature review involved the gathering and analysing of published literature including conference proceedings, journal articles, newspaper articles and website articles. I extracted the many different definitions and characteristics of a COP and I went about categorising them based on key words and phrases which related to the 3 main structural elements of a COP – Domain, Community and Practice.

However, I discovered during this process that not all characteristics could be easily categorised under these elements such as, for instance: the way in which a member of a COP moves from the periphery to the centre of the community through participation and the way in which knowledge is created and disseminated in a COP and the type of learning that takes place in a COP. Therefore I went through a process of coding, categorising and describing the characteristics that did not relate to Domain, Community and Practice and I ended up with a set of three new structural elements: Participation, Learning and Knowledge (see image below for fulllist of characteristics). I categorised all the similar characteristics in the literature together based on key words, phrases and meanings. Based on the formation of these new elements, I propose to amend the structural elements to include Participation, Learning and Knowledge.


Phase 2 involved validating these elements by investigating how they align with and appear in an existing community of practice. But I want to make clear that this study was not meant as an exhaustive validation of these elements but instead my aim here was to take a first step at examining whether or not there is evidence to suggest these elements are prominent characteristics in the day to day running of a COP.  The community I chose to investigate was the Coderdojo Movement.

To validate these elements I moved to Phase 3 which involved the analysis of ten semi-structured interviews which I conducted with ten Coderdojo mentors from eight Coderdojos throughout Cork city and county. The interviews were approximately 30 minutes each and they were audio recorded with the permission of the participant. I also took detailed interview notes and following each interview I transcribed the audio. Why did I chose Coderdojo? The Coderdojo movement is a globally recognized and widely known community with over 1,100 verified Coderdojos in 63 countries worldwide (Coderdojo, 2017). It is global network of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people aged 7-17 years old where they learn how to code, build a website, create an app or a game and explore technology in an informal, creative and social environment. I coded these ten interviews against the new structural elements I had established – Participation, Learning and Knowledge. The results and findings from these interviews indicated that these are apparent elements which describe the key characteristics of a COP and of this community.

I will receive notification of acceptance or rejection to NordiCHI on June 1st. In terms of future work for this study I would like to engage in a process of further validation, that is using the elements and the information learned from the interviews to begin the process of a building a successful COP.


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