Agricultural Training Through Stronger Vocational Education (ATTSVE) project aims to contribute to moving Ethiopia towards a market-focused agricultural system in supporting the country economically while meeting the needs of both male and female farmers and youth, and the agriculture industry. McGill’s Faculty of Education joined the lead partner, Dalhousie University, to help Ethiopia enhance their Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET) college programs. Key to McGill’s involvement in the project will be to foster and support gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness.
A Community of Practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. This definition reflects the fundamentally social nature of human learning.
According to Wenger-Trayner (2015), three characteristics are crucial in a Community of Practice:
The domain: A community of practice is not merely a club of friends or a network of connections between people. It has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people. (You could belong to the same network as someone and never know it.) The domain is not necessarily something recognized as “expertise” outside the community. A youth gang may have developed all sorts of ways of dealing with their domain: surviving on the street and maintaining some kind of identity they can live with. They value their collective competence and learn from each other, even though few people outside the group may value or even recognize their expertise.
The community: In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other; they care about their standing with each other.
A website in itself is not a community of practice. Having the same job or the same title does not make for a community of practice unless members interact and learn together. The claims processors in a large insurance company or students in American high schools may have much in common, yet unless they interact and learn together, they do not form a community of practice. But members of a community of practice do not necessarily work together on a daily basis. The Impressionists, for instance, used to meet in cafes and studios to discuss the style of painting they were inventing together. These interactions were essential to making them a community of practice even though they often painted alone.
The practice: A community of practice is not merely a community of interest–people who like certain kinds of movies, for instance. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction. A good conversation with a stranger on an airplane may give you all sorts of interesting insights, but it does not in itself make for a community of practice. The development of a shared practice may be more or less self-conscious. The “windshield wipers” engineers at an auto manufacturer make a concerted effort to collect and document the tricks and lessons they have learned into a knowledge base. By contrast, nurses who meet regularly for lunch in a hospital cafeteria may not realize that their lunch discussions are one of their main sources of knowledge about how to care for patients. Still, in the course of all these conversations, they have developed a set of stories and cases that have become a shared repertoire for their practice.
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The Gender and Leadership Community of Practice (GLCoP) website, aims to connect our community of learners includes people from each of the ATVETs in Maichew, Nedjo, Wolaito Sodo and Woreta as well trainers from McGill, staff from the in-country ATTSVE office and individuals who have contributed their expertise along the way. Primarily through gender training, the GLCoP comes together to co-construct a complex understanding of gender including issues like sexual violence, gender mainstreaming and leadership.