This explanatory case study investigated how members of the Sweet Briar College community formed and evolved to save the institution after it was announced in March 2015 that the class graduating in May 2015 would be its last.
Etienne Wenger’s (2015) communities of practice provided the theoretical lens through which the analysis of the effort to save Sweet Briar College was studied. This framework encompasses five levels of participation within a community: core, active, occasional, peripheral and transactional. This study applies the communities of practice framework as a problem-solving tool, not necessarily a knowledge-sharing tool, although knowledge is inevitably shared in the process of solving a problem within a community of practice. Thus, a key contribution from this study includes a better understanding of how a community of practice evolves in a time of need to solve a problem; this research can provide insight for participants, as well as leaders, into what a successful community of practice might entail.
The data for this study were collected in two ways: interviews of 16 members of the Sweet Briar College community; and document analysis of more than 400 newspaper articles, social media posts, emails and other communications beginning with the closure announcement on March 3, 2015 and ending with the legal settlement on June 20, 2015.
This study found that the effort to save Sweet Briar College was successful because of three primary factors: the motivation of participants to join and engage in the community of practice; the immediacy in which the core group organized and set a series of shared goals; and the multitude of engagement opportunities and high levels of participation throughout the community of practice.
|Advisor:||Hurst, Heather L.|
|Commitee:||Hoffman, Kurt, Short, John T.|
|School:||Frostburg State University|
|School Location:||United States -- Maryland|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational leadership, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Case study, Communities of practice, Higher education, Problem-solving framework, Sweet Briar College|
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