Communities of practice

The journal article was called ‘Problem-based learning in clinical bioinformatics education: Does it help to create communities of practice?’. The article considered a new part-time Masters programme established in 2013 training bioinformaticians for the NHS. Trainees on the programme are based in the NHS and come to the University campus for short periods of teaching for the educational component for a new profession. The paper examines the use of flipped teaching with problem-based learning and embedded clinical case studies in the creation of communities of practice. As all the students were part of a new profession, the team wanted to explore how communities of practice could help these new trainees share knowledge and improve practice in healthcare.

The article generated much discussion from the group from the use of personas when teaching online to translating the flipped teaching method to large undergraduate programmes who cannot immediately apply what they’ve learnt in practice. In establishing communities of practice, the paper stressed the importance of enabling the group to develop their own communication mechanisms (for past cohorts these had included WhatsApp, Google groups and Slack).

The take home messages from the participants of the journal club at the end of the session were as follows:

  • The importance of considering the organic nature of how the students interact even when the learning has been scaffolded.
  • Contemplating communities of practice in more detail particularly during the current situation of online learning in Higher Education (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), for example, learning architecture and sense of belonging.
  • Examining further how students evolve from studying to practice within communities of practice.
  • Looking at course design with greater insight – this will be useful for developing skills for group work and online tutorials.
  • Bringing together social constructivism learning with more traditional approaches like problem-based learning. Developing effective communities of practice will be essential for Medical School students going forward; using Blackboard and other online learning tools to jell the whole process together.
  • Recognising the value of writing a paper and capturing the scholarly activities undertaken as part of the ongoing development, reflection, review and revision of the teaching activity. It was noted that it would be good to identify a mechanism for supporting this approach more widely in academic staff doing innovative pieces of work across the University.
  • The importance of journal clubs like this one allowing academic staff the time and momentum as well as the support structures in place to review papers and help getting them published.

Continue the conversation through our Yammer Pedagogy Journal Club.