A community of practice (CoP) 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. In the field of speech-language pathology, we can utilize the concept of a CoP to ensure shared resources among colleagues, and to more effectively promote best practice within our local community. In 2017 I started my own CoP within my school district in Prince George’s County Maryland.
Source: CALPro CoP
Through the process of sharing information and experiences with group members, we can learn and develop personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger, 1991). For example, in the Bilingual Assessment CoP that I facilitate, information is shared that places great emphasis on supporting Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) students. Although this can cause shifts to existing professional cultures, such as not reporting test scores, using standardized assessments in non-standardized ways, and finding other alternatives to yielding assessment results, there are a many benefits to participating in a CoP, such as opportunities to:
- interact with other professionals in order to learn about their experiences and problem solving techniques;
- work together to bring about change;
- identify and serve the individual needs of students;
- increase of professional knowledge in a specific topic;
- support and help to implement new skills learned; and
- access additional resources that extend the learning beyond the CoP (i.e., via Google Classrooms).
My idea for creating the Bilingual Assessments CoP came about as I met and consulted with individual SLPs about how to work more effectively with diverse students on their caseloads. I realized that many SLPs were in different stages of understanding and implementing new methods to working with this student population. For example, when my colleague and I shared our knowledge about working with CLD students through professional development presentations, it was evident that while some SLPs were engaged and willing to embrace this new approach, others did not seem to have an interest or continued to resist this new information. Therefore, I thought to myself, “How could I encourage more engagement and buy-in from my fellow SLPs?”
My first thought was to bring together a “focus group” of SLPs that could help each other understand the challenges and successes with working with CLD students. I felt that in addition to presentations, it would also be beneficial if colleagues heard from each other about their experiences. With the help of other SLPs who already lead CoPs, this idea gave rise to the Bilingual Assessment CoP that I currently lead and facilitate. Having other school based SLPs, who are willing to discuss and share their successes and challenges has proven to be successful.
As professionals, we have a duty to share what we know, not just with our students, but also with each other for the betterment of our students. As a bilingual SLP who continues to learn and grow in the area of multicultural issues, I truly believe that it is my great responsibility to pass on what I learn. I hope others will, too!
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
California adult literacy professional development project. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2018, fromhttps://www.calpro-online.org/communitiesofpractice.asp