TLABs: A teaching and learning community of practice – What is it? Does it work? Tips for doing it yourself
Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 3:00pm – 3:30pm parallel session
Room 8 – 303 B09 Sem
Associate Professor Shelley Beatty
Edith Cowan University, Australia
Communities of Practice (COPs) are common in higher education settings and are an important mentoring tool because they have the potential to connect people; provide a shared context; enable dialogue; stimulate learning; capture and diffuse existing knowledge; introduce collaborative processes; and generate new knowledge.
Initiated in 2015 in the School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Western Australia, TLABs is an acronym for ‘Teaching and Learning for Level A and B’ academic staff and was designed to build a COP to mentor these junior academics, improve their teaching performance and prospects for academic promotion.
Methods of evaluation data collection analysis
Since its inception, 16 TLABs sessions have been run and in 2018 ethics approval was obtained to formally evaluate TLABs from the perspectives of the participants, using an anonymous, self-completed, on-line questionnaire. The objectives of the survey were to ascertain participants’ perspectives of TLABs; identify for what reasons participants attend TLABs; determine how participation in TLABs had impacted on participants’ self-reported teaching and learning-related knowledge and practices; and to identify what aspects of TLABs should be maintained, changed and/or improved. A Qualtrics questionnaire was deployed via email to 54 academic staff who were eligible to participate in TLABs. Data analysis included frequency calculations and open-ended question responses were summarised.
Evidence of Effectiveness
The results suggested participants found TLABs to be a useful way of offering peer support of teaching and an opportunity to network and discuss shared concerns and for learning about and improving confidence in implementing teaching and learning policies and procedures. They gave an opportunity to access and provide teaching and learning-related feedback to school leaders. The results of the evaluation of TLABs also offered several practical messages for those contemplating establishing a CoP for junior academic staff in their university. First, such staff seem likely to appreciate opportunities to meet informally to discuss and debate teaching and learning strategies, issues and problems. Second, a supportive, skilled group facilitator, knowledgeable about the University’s teaching and learning policies and procedures seems vital. Third, CoPs require an environment of trust and safety and developing this seems to take a good deal of time, reflecting that a CoP should be viewed as a long-term strategy rather than a quick-fix.
Academics – Academic Development