Broaden and Diversify Your Reach Through Expanding Your Definition of ‘Community of Practice’

Wednesday 1:30pm-4:00pm TSU - Humphries: 13
Afternoon Mini Workshop


Margie Turrin, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Katie Farnsworth, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus

Community of Practice (COP) is a term for the collective learning that develops when people who desire to reach a common goal build a support network that fosters open communication and includes shared resources, exchanging lessons learned and engaging different perspectives and understandings. The Earth Educator Rendezvous is uniquely designed to provide a foundation for Geoscience educators to build and solidify an instructional COP. However, in order to broaden our community to include diverse voices and career experiences we need to develop an expanded definition. The Geosciences need to reflect the voices and needs of both our local and global community, engaging people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to work with us in tackling issues and challenges that reflect their concerns. This workshop will provide guidance and opportunity to work towards developing an expanded community of practice. We will specifically address:

  • Identifying key members/stakeholders in your community
  • Establishing bi-directional learning between you, students and members of the community as you develop a diversity of voices through a regularity of interaction.
The COP model can be applied to many different situations to encourage new knowledge in individuals or the group, to stimulate innovation and ideas or for distribution of knowledge within a group. The workshop will include discussion and shared experiences as well as demonstration of some communities of practice within the earth sciences. We will provide specific tools for growing your own community of practice as we focus on expanding and connecting more deeply in your own communities.


By the end of this workshop, participants will

  • Define a community of practice through descriptions of activities with which they are already involved
  • Explore the ways that communities of practice come together
  • Develop a personal goal (action statement?) that addresses expanding or developing a community of practice
  • Create a short action plan for reaching that goal
  • Recognize that the EER is a great place to start a community of practice


1:30 Welcome and quick introductions

1:40 Definition and Examples of Community of Practice (COP)

  • How does a network differ from a community of practice

1:50 Small-group discussions on COP examples they are already involved. Who's voice is there? Who's voice is missing? Report Back.

2:20 Small group discussion/brainstorming

  • How do COP's come together?
  • Role of diverse voices in a COP - challenges and opportunities
  • How to effectively reach outside your own expertise
2:30 Gallery walk & discussion

3:00 Introduce personal goal-setting activity for a COP and action items

3:15 Divide up into groups and work together to develop 3 action items to move forward on their similar goals

3:40 Discussion Wrap-up and end of workshop survey

4:00 Adjourn


Some background links for getting your feet wet on this topic.

Learning as a Social System :

Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium:

National Council of Nonprofits:

Workshop Notes:

  • Defining a Community of Practice (COP)
    • Common direction in the goals, but all members do not necessarily have the same goal
    • All members want to learn from each other in order to move forward
    • Members have different perspectives, different skills, different knowledge
    • What makes a COP different and similar to a network?
      • A great description is truly thinking about networks as nodes with spikes, this is in contrast to a community of practice being more interwoven relationships
    • How do we form a COP?
      • Identify needs or goals of a few founding members
      • Identify key individuals within networks that can either join or help to expand the community of practice
      • LISTEN to each other
      • LISTEN to each other
      • LISTEN to each other
    • Gallery Walk Discussion Questions
      • What essential elements allow COP's to come together? AND How do we effectively reach outside your own expertise?
      • Discuss the role of diverse voices in COP's. What are some challenges and opportunities?
        • Thinking about the power structure in COPs, what is the ideal structure? Should/Can all voices be equal?
      • How do we open space in the structure for new voices to be heard? What about if these new voices change the existing focus of the COP? Are all needs the same?

  • Setting Personal Goals and determining action items to reach these goals. Everyone worked on this individually. EER Worksheet.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 366kB Jul17 19)
  • Some overall summary notes
    • Over the time period of existence of a COP, the leadership capacity should increase, while the role of individual leaders should decrease
    • Flexibitiy to evolve the main COP is key, yet sometimes COPs will often result in other COPs developing as new directions are desired
    • Expand your reach through respectfully showing up in places you do not normally go