Title page for ETD etd-01132009-131320

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Mckay, Robert Forbes
Email robmck@bridgehouse.org.za
URN etd-01132009-131320
Document Title Distributed communities of practice : an exploration of a distributed community of practice of South African Life Science teachers
Degree MEd
Department Curriculum Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof J Cronje Co-Supervisor
Dr P A Miller Supervisor
  • teacher professional development
  • email
  • internet
  • knowledge management
  • Life Science
  • virtual communities
  • negotiation of meaning
  • distributed communities of practice
  • legitimate peripheral participation
  • identity formation
Date 2008-09-03
Availability unrestricted

This study researches phenomenon of the Biology Teachers Network (BTN), a distributed Community of Practice (CoP). The membership of the BTN is voluntary. The BTN is supported by a core group of members and administered by single moderator. The network uses a manually operated email system to communicate and share information as an automatic listserv proved to be beyond the capabilities of the membership.

Etienne Wenger is the authority on the theory of CoPs and provides in depth background to the processes that are evident in a CoP. A CoP consists of the Domain, Practice and Community and through a process of negotiation of meaning, learning takes place through identity formation. CoPs can exist online in the form of distribute CoPs. Passionate leadership is essential for the formation of a CoP as is the voluntary participation of the members.

A Naturalistic case study methodology is considered to be the most appropriate research tool. In this study a focus group interview and a collection of emails were used as data sources. The data was analysed using three instruments derived from the literature.

The conclusion from the analysis of the data was that the BTN is a vibrant and fully functional distributed CoP in the coalescing stage. Participation in the BTN has led to an increase in professional development and ICT skills amongst some of the member teachers. The fact that this was achieved through the use of email instead of sophisticated websites suggests that this model of distributed CoP is suitable for the professional development of teachers in South Africa.

ŠUniversity of Pretoria 2007

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