Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Fostering communities of practice through international collaborative writing groups (#24)

Kelly E Matthews 1 , Mick Healey 2 , Beth Marquis 3 , Jacquie McDonald 4
  1. The University of Queensland, Brsibane, QLD, Australia
  2. HE Consultant, UK
  3. McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
  4. University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Academic engagement in professional development activities to enhance teaching and learning is rife in complexity with empirical evidence spotlighting the tremendous uncertainty of outcomes of some endeavours, such as one-shot information sessions (Gibbs, 2013; Weaver et al, 2013). The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) has emerged as a means to develop academics’ teaching capacity (Gibbs, 2013). The International Collaborative Writing Groups (ICWG) initiative was designed to build the capacity of participants in SoTL through year-long writing groups who co-author reflective pieces about a teaching and learning topic of shared interest (Healey et al, 2013). The first ICWG initiative aligned with the International Society for SoTL Conference (2012) involved 69 scholars and students representing 14 countries. The second iteration of the ICWG is being hosted in Australia with sponsorship from HERDSA. The lens of communities of practice (McDonald, 2014; Wenger et al, 2002) is being applied to explore informal social learning of the writing groups.  

A mixed method study was designed to understand the experiences of participants involved in the 2012 writing groups. Data were captured from three surveys with both Likert scale prompts and open-ended questions along with focus groups to further probe participant experiences (Marquis et al, 2014). Overall data indicated high levels of participant satisfaction for both academics and students. Thematic analysis of qualitative data revealed the role of community as a key theme valued by participants, which was interrelated with participants views of group facilitators (Marquis et al, in press). The evidence will be interpreted within the nurtured for higher education communities of practice framework (McDonald, 2014).

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

Navigating uncertainty and complexity is the everyday experience of people working in higher education teaching, learning and curriculum development. The challenge of engaging busy academics in development activities to enhance teaching is complicated business. Strategies to engage them and build their teaching capacities are increasingly drawing on multiple perspectives and utilising various modes of communication. This showcase will engage the audience in discussions on the ICWG initiative as communities of practice in SoTL. 

  1. Gibbs, G. (2013). Reflections on the changing nature of educational development. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(1), 4-14.
  2. Healey, M., Marquis, B., & Vajoczki, S. (2013). Exploring SoTL through International Collaborative Writing Groups. Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(2), 3-8.
  3. Marquis, E., Healey, M., & Vine, M. (in press). Fostering collaborative teaching and learning scholarship through an international writing group initiative. Higher Education Research and Development. Forthcoming.
  4. Marquis, E., Healey, M., & Vine, M. (2014). Building Capacity for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Using International Collaborative Writing Groups. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(1), 12.
  5. McDonald, J. (2014). Community, Domain, Practice: Facilitator catch cry for revitalising learning and teaching through communities of practice. Canberra, Australia.
  6. Weaver, D., Robbie, D., Kokonis, S., & Miceli, L. (2013). Collaborative scholarship as a means of improving both university teaching practice and research capability. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(3), 237-250.
  7. Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge: Harvard Business Press.