How Can Education Systems Structure Virtual Communities of Practice for Teachers Most Effectively?

Virtual communities of practice (VCoPs) can be a low-cost mode of delivering teacher continuous professional development, although there are currently no studies measuring their effectiveness in boosting student learning. VCoPs typically serve as platforms for knowledge exchange. Observational cases studies suggest that teachers report that VCoPs can be a useful tool for collaborating on solving difficult problems and fostering a sense of community among teachers. The main challenges faced by VCoPs include lack of digital literacy and internet connectivity, poor quality content, low participation, lack of continuity over time, lack of trust and open sharing of teachers’ concerns, and the time involved in administering VCoPs. Several observational case studies offer potential solutions for the challenges, but there are often trade-offs between different approaches (e.g., more top-down vs. bottom-up). These trade-offs underscore the value from piloting and rigorously testing the impact of these solutions on VCoP functioning, sustainability, and, ultimately, student learning.

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