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Creating a ‘Virtual Staffroom’: Embedding the Culture of Learning Collaboration

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 2:15pm – 3:45pm parallel mini-workshop



Room 1 – 302-G20, Case Room  



Ruth Dimes
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Patricia Hubbard
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Una Lightfoot
University of Auckland, New Zealand



In schools, staff rooms are a safe haven for teachers to discuss new ideas, share experiences and have honest conversations about some of the challenges and frustrations of teaching. However, in the tertiary sector the staffroom concept is absent, replaced by ad hoc corridor conversations, university-wide teaching forums and other initiatives that often lack the opportunity for honest sharing and practical problem-solving.

The concept of a virtual staffroom through a Community of Practice (COP) within the University of Auckland GSM (Graduate School of Management) was developed by two lecturers. The GSM offers cross-disciplinary programmes such as the Business Masters and the MBA. Drawing on the rich resource of our lecturers’ experiential knowledge of the practice of teaching, our embedded learning designer connected intuitive knowledge with educational theory. The Community of Practice provided the opportunity for face-to-face, online learning and discussion activities. The use of discussion boards and Piazza in the Canvas site contributed to the engagement of our community. The sessions have been well attended by a broad spectrum of faculty members, and they particularly appeal to new teaching staff as part of an informal induction into the department. We have found that this collaborative approach, supported by senior management, has benefitted both staff and students (Voogt, et al., 2011).


Target audience

Anyone keen to find a way of sharing teaching techniques in a practical and collaborative way.


Intended outcomes for participants

At the conclusion of the session, participants will have an understanding of:

  • How to develop a virtual staffroom to expand and encourage collaboration
  • How to engage research-active staff in teaching initiatives
  • What other organisations do to encourage sharing of best practice


Outline of activities

In this session, the COP approach to teacher collaboration will be shared from three different perspectives: one of the original developers; a recently appointed learning designer; and a newly appointed teaching staff member. Two interactive activities will give a taste of the techniques that have been used at face-to-face meetings, and the dedicated Canvas LMS resources support the online process will also be shown.


Times are approximate

0-0:05             Welcome

0:05-0:30       COP Introduction and Canvas “Virtual Staffroom” demonstration

0:30-0:50       Activity #1 – Using yoga to explain and understand different assessment methods

0:50 – 1:00     Debrief, Questions and Discussion

1:00-1:20       Activity #2 – How to engage a large group in a discussion exercise

1:20 – 1:30     Debrief, Questions and Discussion



Bocala, C. (2015). From Experience to Expertise: The Development of Teachers’ Learning in Lesson Study. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(4), 349-362.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation: ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation in Communities of Practice’. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Voogt, J., Westbroek, H., Handelzalts, A., Walraven, A., McKenney, S., Pieters, J., & de Vries, B. (2011). Teacher Learning in colloborative curriculum design. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 1235-1244.


Presentation topic

Mini-workshop 5

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