Sunday, May 07, 2006

Stages in a community of practice

Once a community of practice has been set up, a series of events are going to take place as a result of the interaction among the members of this community. This forming or building of the community can be explained by using Gilly Salmon’s five-model step (2005). This model is based on a research carried out by Gilly Salmon in the Open University of the United Kingdom. A group of teachers and students from the Master of Business Administration from the OU participated in this research using computer mediated conferencing (CMC) during the early 90’s. This experience helped Gilly Salmon build her model of teaching and learning online. For Salmon, it’s important to understand that learning online is more than just using a computer. It implies complex interaction, transformation and integration of ICT skills while learning about a topic. Salmon’s model is divided into 5 stages represented as a flight of steps.  

Stage one: Access and motivation E-moderator welcomes, encourages people to participate in the community and offers technical support for participants to get online. Participants need access to a computer; internet, have at least certain basic notions on how to go about in an on-line environment, time and effort. Individual support is needed at this stage.  

Stage two: Online socialization Participants start sending and receiving messages. Participants get to know each other (High social component). They become familiar with the new online environment. E-moderators is responsible for promoting and keeping online socialization and networking. He is also responsible for helping participants understand how they can help each others to enhance their knowledge related to a topic, course or discipline. The development of a new culture gradually emerges in this stage with rules, norms of behaviors, ways of operating and sanctions. Social scaffold and promoting respect are keywords in this stage!  

Stage three: Information exchange Participants start exchanging information which can be quite overwhelming but they will have to learn with it by developing certain strategies. At this stage, also participants have already quite defined roles in the community. The e-moderator helps participants deal with the quantity of information shared and helps them focus on finding answers to problems or issues arising in the exchanges. Learning to deal with “messiness” (amount of information coming from different participants during this stage) .  

Stage four: Knowledge construction Participants interact and participate more. Participants learn more by expanding their knowledge and realizing that there are different perspectives to understand a problem or issue. E-moderators become less active. He becomes a kind of a “weaver” of knowledge. For example, they collect participants’ messages and relate them with theories and concepts related to the debate or discussion taking place in the community. At this stage, anyone can become the moderator temporarily; steps back and another member of the community take the lead. E-moderators should have clear the difference between cognitive methods of teaching and learning and constructivist approaches.  

Stage five: Development Participants become responsible for their own leaning and need less support from others. They reflect on how they have learned in the community and what they needed to do so (metacogniton). E-moderators promote critical thinking among the members of the community.
Uncertainties and problems may arise as a result of discussion at this stage.

This is just a summary of Gilly Salmon’s model. It’s important to say that technical support, e-moderation and a purpose for participating in a community are a must for a community to succeed (Salmon, 2005).

Salmon, Gilly (2005). E-moderating: the key to teaching & learning online. RoutledgeFalmer. London & New York. All Things in Moderation - E-moderating, 2nd edition. Retrieved July 19, 2006, from

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