Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Learning in a heterogeneous community of practice
by Ludden, James B., Ed.D., Northern Illinois University, 2009, 258; 3369794
Abstract (Summary)

A community of practice (CoP) is a group of individuals who share a common interest or concern that they collectively learn about and negotiate. Each CoP participant engages in a reciprocal transaction of contributing to the knowledge of, and learning from, other members of the group. To date only a small number of studies have examined the participants’ perspectives on how learning transpires within a CoP. Moreover, even fewer studies have explored heterogeneous communities comprised of individuals representing diverse stakeholder groups. Considering these gaps in the literature, this study addresses the following two questions: (a) how are the elements and characteristics of a heterogeneous CoP described by its members, and (b) how does learning transpire within a heterogeneous CoP?

To answer the research questions of the study, a case study approach was used to investigate the Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group (CAG). The primary mission of the CAG is to develop and implement an action plan to remediate bio-hazardous material from Waukegan Harbor (Lake County, Illinois). Data were collected using three techniques: (a) semi-structured interviews of 18 CAG participants, (b) direct observation of two group meetings, and (c) document review. The data gathered through these techniques were analyzed through a multi-step, recursive coding process to generate themes.

Upon analysis of the data, five themes emerged. The first theme uses the metaphor of the extended family as a heuristic tool for interpreting the intricacies of learning within the CAG. The second theme suggests that this CoP operates as a meta-community comprised of a constellation of distinct subgroups rather than a single, cohesive entity. The third theme reveals the influence of multiple realities on participant learning. The fourth theme highlights the impact that external forces have on group learning, and the fifth theme discusses the influence of leadership on how learning transpires within the CAG.

The findings of this study contribute to the field of adult education by illuminating the perceptions members have regarding the complexities of learning within a heterogeneous CoP. Beyond the spectrum of adult education, the findings have implications for the process of learning within any group comprised of members representing diverse stakeholder interests.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jeris, Laurel
Commitee: Epifanio, John, Roth, Gene
School: Northern Illinois University
Department: Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Adult education
Keywords: Community of practice, Heterogeneous, Illinois, Informal learning, Leadership, Situated learning, Waukegan Harbor CAG, Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group
Publication Number: 3369794
ISBN: 978-1-109-32403-7
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