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Lisa Whitaker
53
Organising and Planning

Using Observations to Help Evaluate a Community of Practice

The first in a five-part series exploring the value of Communities of Practice (CoPs). The series uses findings from a research project undertaken between UK Coaching and The Albion Foundation to demonstrate the impact of CoPs on coach learning and development

Learning in a community of practice (CoP) looks and feels very different to traditional education methods that we are used to. This is one of the main strengths of learning in a CoP, as it allows everyone to participate and get involved in the learning in a relaxed and more informal way. 

However, because of the informal and social nature of CoPs, traditional methods for conducting evaluations (eg, surveys and interviews) may not be appropriate. One way that social behaviour can be assessed is via observations. 

Observations enable behaviour to be seen in action and can help to determine engagement, the types of interactions, level of support and the relationships developing within a CoP. Before undertaking any observations for evaluation purposes, it is often helpful to determine what it is you are looking for and how you plan on using the data collected. You may be interested in:

  • Understanding what impact the CoP is having on learning (measuring effectiveness).
  • Monitoring the look and feel of the CoP (keeping a log on how the CoP evolves over time).
  • Identifying how the CoP experience can be improved (using a trial and error approach to set up and activities).

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Lisa Whitaker