University of Limerick
Clonan_2017_impact.pdf (1.79 MB)

The impact of a community of practice on physical education teachers' practices, understandings and beliefs

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posted on 2022-12-21, 12:02 authored by Marie Therese Clonan
Research on teacher continuing professional development focuses on how it can contribute to teacher and pupil learning (Teaching Council 2016). Teachers are envisioned as reflective practitioners and members of school based professional learning communities (Teaching Council 2012). This study examined how a community of practice (CoP), the Urban Schools Group (USG) changed their practices, understandings and beliefs. The USG is a CoP of physical education (PE) professionals who work in challenging circumstances. The main theory underpinning the research is Social Learning Theory (Lave and Wenger 1991, Wenger 1998) where learning, knowledge and context are mutually bound together. Knowledge from social learning takes two forms- knowing as practice and learning as a change in identity (Wenger 2009). The research found that prior to engagement with the USG, the teachers’ negative experiences of continuing professional development caused them to question the validity of what they offered in school. Engagement with the USG helped them to articulate their priorities, clarify their goals and align practice changes with their priorities. It also led to improved teacher confidence as professionals that manifested itself in changed classroom practices and engagement with peers, both within the USG and in school. USG-teachers also brokered Irish access to a community of learners in the UK by successfully piloting a curriculum innovation- the ‘Living-for-Sports Curricular Initiative’. Their conception of professional practice broadened beyond the classroom in acting as mentors and advocates for their profession. Wenger (2009) stated that learning trajectories of individuals and social learning spaces are interconnected dynamics of learning in a ‘social weave’. Arising from teachers’ competent engagement with the USG, this translated into knowledgeable engagement and it moved them from a position of peripheral to active engagement and change agents in Irish and physical education landscapes of practice. It helped them to identify their position on the Landscapes of Practice and may even have changed the landscape itself.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

O'Sullivan, Mary





Department or School

  • School of Education

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