Re-imagining Communities of Practice: from the descriptive to the prospective - Rob Smith


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Presentation at HEA-funded workshop 'Developing a research-led culture within post-92 education departments'.

This event will brought together colleagues from across the sector with an interest in research leadership and building a research-led culture. The event facilitated a discussion through which participants could explore/identify key elements that form barriers, as well as those that support, the development of a research-led culture.

This presentation is part of a related blog post that provides an overview of the event:

For further details of the HEA's work on active and experiential learning in the Social Sciences see:

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Re-imagining Communities of Practice: from the descriptive to the prospective - Rob Smith

  1. 1. ‘Re-imagining Communities of Practice: from the descriptive to the prospective’ Dr Rob Smith Centre for Research and Development in Lifelong Education (CRADLE) University of Wolverhampton
  2. 2. Marketised forms – the re-introduction of fear as a feature of our times  Homo economicus: neo-Hobbesian competitive and self- interested individual  Commodification of education; product view of curriculum  Knowledge production reduced to performativity, shaped by managerialist positivism  Marginalisation of qualitative research and practitioner voice All militate against participatory research & collaborative research and scholarship. The Context
  3. 3.  Partnership: was looking for another word but this one will have to do: but it could say – the development of long term (i.e. at least longer than an annual qualification cycle) relationship in which trust can develop  Perspective: beyond the institution, e.g. West Midlands Post 1992 Forum – the key is that people are brought together to meet people from other institutions  Purpose: in collaborative research the participants need to be united by purpose. The writing becomes woven in with this, an articulation of it How do we research collaboratively in such a context?
  4. 4. Points of departure: the research needs to connect and be borne out of the experience of the researchers: a spark of outrage, disgust, even irritation is needed Practice/practise: Recognise that working like this forces a confrontation with academic practice that connects directly back to Hobbes. The REF and academic career discourses shape identities in HE and collaborative research and writing cuts across this as it is no respecter of boundaries and ‘status’. This is a purpose that needs to be made explicit.
  5. 5. What’s the problem with using ‘community’? Old meanings: common language, sharing a common set of values, a similar background from a specific location The city / modernity happened New (loss of old) meanings: unlike individuals, dispersed, a range of values and different backgrounds BUT unified by purpose: that they are against the complex systems that they believe are destructive of the relationships, ideas and values that they cherish. Risky and forward-looking - prospective - looking for the possibilities of shared purpose and solidarity.
  6. 6. Working with and alongside practitioners and others to make research accessible – social meaning-making. Using these parameters – collaborative research is the purposeful occupation, digging and cultivation of the knowledge commons.  Literacy Study Group (2008)''Sometimes no amount of reflection or theory helps' - thoughts on the 'quality' of Literacy provision across a range of Black Country providers', Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 60:4, 441-454  Literacy Study Group (2010) 'The allegiance and experience of student literacy teachers in the postcompulsory education context: competing communities of practice', Journal of Education for Teaching, 36: 1, 5-17  Dhillon, S. , Hamilton-Victor, R., Jeens, D., Merrick, S. , O'Brien, J., Siddons, N. , Smith, R. and Wilkins, B. (2011) 'Skills for Life: insights from the new 'professionals'', Journal of Educational Administration and History, 43: 1, 61-83  Garbett, G., Orrock, D. & Smith, R. (2013) Culture clash: mentoring student Literacy educators in a marketised and instrumentalist further education policyscape, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 18:3, 239-256, Back to context
  7. 7. The Power of CoPs: