A program of Professional Development (PD) for members of one U.S. zoo’s department of education included Learning Communities (LCs), or small study groups. There were differences among the four implemented LCs in terms of foci, products, and duration. The PD Planning Team’s actions, in part, contributed to the LCs’ outcomes. Additionally, the Planning Team considered potential ways to support sustained LCs within the department. An investigation of the differences and similarities of outcomes among the LCs, and the ways in which the PD Planning Team orchestrated these LCs—which were otherwise self-directed—provided a foundation for a discussion of how sustainability of LCs may be influenced by “belonging” (Wenger, 1998, p. 173). Implications for PD designers include the potential value of (1) recognizing the influence of the planning team on self-directed LCs, (2) encouraging LCs to be attentive to both the topic under study by the group and the process or practice of being in a LC, (3) supporting LC self-direction along with the provision of structure, and (4) recognizing a variety of LC products and indicators of sustainability.
|Keywords:||Belonging, Communities of Practice, Educator, Informal Learning, Learning Community, Professional Development, Study Group, Zoo|
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Education, Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
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