The Whitestone Kahui Ako is a grouping of one high school, four contributing primaries and the Oamaru Kindergarten Association. It is a true community of learning in that its sole purpose is learning.
It has taken time to get to the point where the community has an agreed sense of joint enterprise. The community is at the point now of developing its governance structures and employing teachers. Up to now, the main participants in the learning community have been the principals of the schools. Each principal is leader of their own community of learning in their own school. Each of these schools has their own vision, values and sense of joint enterprise. One of the challenges to the kahui ako has been to develop a sense of joint enterprise which includes and enhances those of the individual school communities.
Participation in the community can be explained by “modes of belonging,” (Wenger, 2000). The principals engaged in discussions over a year and have created opportunities for staff within schools to engage with each other. Up to this point this engagement has been peripheral for the teachers in my school. It has been secondary to our core purpose and goals.
We have also participated in “imagination” mode where we have reflected on who we are and our purpose and created vision. This has been done through “mutuality” creating both personal and professional trust (Wenger, 2000, p. 230). We are now in a phase where alignment has been established between the leaders.
“Learning at boundaries is likely to be maximised for individuals and for communities when experience and competence are in close tension,” (Wenger, 2000, p.233). Competence refers to what the community has established over time and experience is our own interaction with the world. When there is a close tension – i.e. new or contrasting experiences are not too far removed from the community’s competence there is more opportunity for learning. The community came into closer alignment through sharing understanding of the competencies and challenges of the constituent groups and through the learning of the principals in the group with the help of an external facilitator. This has brought a tension between the competency of the group and experience beyond which is a condition for learning.
Through this experience we are now building a sense of a shared repertoire of resources. One of these is the agreed focus on “Spirals of Inquiry” (Timperley, Kaser, & Halbert, 2014) as a learning tool for all members. Another is the beginning practice of cross- school moderation thus beginning a shared understanding of resource and competence. The next step is to engage a learning facilitator for the schools and the lead teachers to work across and within schools and this is when the community’s shared competence and repertoire will begin to grow.
In a sense of joint enterprise, communities agree on their purpose. Competent members understand the enterprise well enough to be able to contribute to it and to access the community’s shared repertoire of resources. I now feel a strong alignment and mutuality with the group’s vision and within the shared competence we are building. My role is as a competent participant and as a leader and now that the group has got to the point of being in alignment with my own school’s goals I have a strong sense of belonging and contribution to the group. This has been established not through changing my school’s goals or the goals of the group but unpacking to the point where we have established we have shared goals and hence a joint enterprise.
Timperley, H., Kaser, L., & Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Victoria: Centre for Strategic Education.
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225–246. https://doi.org/10.1177/135050840072002