Participating in a community of practice gives participants access to targeted resources, new information and credible research that they can use to deepen their understanding, grow their knowledge, and inform their practice. Participants report one of the top benefits of a community of practice is access to new information, often recommended by other participants. Identifying, reviewing and sharing resources is a key component of building collective knowledge and sharing with others.
Using a resource as a starting point
Often a community of practice uses one or more resources as a focus for the year. The resource could be a comprehensive instructional guide that participants commit to implement and reflect on throughout the school year, a reference that participants can draw on throughout the year, or resources and software that participants can use with their students.
The lack of available (or effective) teaching resources for meeting specific learning needs might be a target issue for a community. For example, the Literacy for All communities of practice were developed to help identify and review the effectiveness of literacy resources for students with significant disabilities. New resources were identified and reviewed each year. Numeracy for All communities of practice also used a teaching resource as the focus of their work.
For a description of the learning and teaching resources that were the focus of the Literacy for All communities of practice see LINK to this section of website. These resources changed from year-to-year.
When a resource is selected as a focus for the community, the initial face-to-face session should included scheduled time to explore and reflect on the resource.
In the example below, a template of reflective questions was developed for small groups to review assigned chapter of Quick Guides to Inclusion: Ideas for Educating Students with Disabilities, edited by Michael F. Giangreco and Mary Beth Doyle, that was distributed to all participants. Each group shared their reflections on their assigned chapter with the larger group. The four webinars throughout the year also referenced this resource.
The final survey at the end of the year is an opportunity to ask participants how helpful specific resources actually were, how they used them, and whether or not they would recommend these resources to other educators.
Often individual participants within the community are great sources of information and can recommend resources, websites and research articles related to the community’s focus. Dedicating time and a space for participants to do this on an ongoing basis can be a rich source for new and useful resources.
In the example below, the Learning for All community of practice had a dedicated section of their members-only website for participants to recommend resources. Participants were also able to comment on the posted recommendations.