Choosing Change: Using a Community of Practice Model to Support Curriculum Reform and Improve Teaching Quality in the First Year

Mary Heath, Tania Leiman

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Abstract Significant, competing pressures for change have become constants in
    tertiary teaching. Many academics choose to change teaching and course design to better reflect pedagogical research and support learning. Some changes, however, are imposed by institutional policies responding to the wider higher education context. Whether change is chosen or imposed, managing it is made more difficult by increasing workloads and decreasing opportunities for collaborative decision-making and professional skills development. This chapter describes our experience of facilitating a community of practice with teachers of first year law students as a change management strategy. We established the community of practice with twin hopes. Firstly, we sought to support a research-based first year pedagogy, centred in an integrated approach to curriculum and student support. Secondly, we needed a pragmatic intervention to support implementation of a new curriculum and major changes in university policy with a new cohort of first year staff. A community of practice offered a promising model for achieving pedagogical goals through addressing teachers’ needs, rather than simply escalating demands on staff. We chose a community of practice approach believing it would allow teachers to strengthen collaborations, build skills and share best practices, all of which we believed were essential to creating an integrated first year experience that could result only from a team of first year teachers. This chapter discusses the initiation, development and achievements of our community of practice before turning to considerations of life cycle, leadership, resources and long term sustainability
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationImplementing Communities of Practice in Higher Education - Dreamers and Schemers.
    EditorsJacquie McDonald, Aileen Cater-Steel
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)9789811028663
    ISBN (Print)9789811028656
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Community of practice
    • First year experience
    • Legal education
    • Change management


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