Using a Community of Practice in Higher Education: Understanding the Demographics of Participation and Impact on Teaching

Alexander Wilson
School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University

Chris Wilson
School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University

Gabi Witthaus
University of Birmingham

Research in the higher education literature argues that communities of practice (CoPs) can be effective staff development by helping academics to share teaching experiences and innovations. One of the key proposed benefits of CoPs involves the opportunity for early career practitioners to learn from more experienced colleagues. This raises the question as to whether the benefits of a CoP differ across academics according to their teaching experience, seniority, or other demographic features. After establishing a CoP within a highly ranked UK business school, this paper provides a statistical analysis of its ability to engage and influence different academics. As consistent with our hypothesis, the main findings show that that: 1) junior staff were significantly more likely to participate in the CoP than senior staff, and 2) conditional on participation, junior participants were also more likely to engage with the CoP by transferring an idea they had learned into their teaching practice.

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