Analysing a research group 'start-up' through the communities of practice lens

Anderson, Deborah, Lees, Rebecca, Avery, Barry and Russell, Daniel (2016) Analysing a research group 'start-up' through the communities of practice lens. In: British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference 2016; 13-15 Sep 2016, Leeds, U.K.. (Unpublished)


The pressure to research and publish is an important item on the UK higher education agenda, further emphasised for UK Business Schools as they seek to gain American Association of Colleges and Business School (AACSB) accreditation. The AACSB requirement is for the majority of teaching staff (including hourly paid lecturers) to be engaged in research. It was in this context that a small group of teaching-focussed staff came together to form a ‘start-up’ educational research group. We plan to analyse this ‘bottom-up’ group through the lens of recent thinking on communities of practice. Whilst originally focussing on identification, motivation, the interlinkage of meaning and action, shared histories and collaborative artefacts (Lave and Wenger, 1991), the term has since evolved to provide a theoretical framework focussing on three key features: 1) a shared domain of interest and joint enterprise; 2) mutual engagement through social interaction and activity with relationships based on respect and trust, and 3) a shared repertoire and developing practice with accompanying tools, ideas, language and documents (Jakovljevic et al., 2013). The start-up research group first met in July 2014 and agreed on a strategy of initially working on conference papers within a defined set of themes. Over time, and once confidence had been developed, this would evolve into journal articles submissions. The group is entirely composed of teaching-focussed staff with limited time allocated for research and includes two part-time hourly paid members of staff with no previous research experience. Throughout the work, a collaborative approach has been adopted, with strengthening relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Tools and technologies have been harnessed to promote a shared repertoire with a highly structured shared file area (Dropbox), collaborative writing tools (Googledocs) and collaborative literature reviews using innovative tools developed by group members (e.g., The “Thematic Analysis Grid”). Since the initial meeting in July 2014, over 40 submissions of various types have been made including twenty international conference papers and eleven journal article submissions. This paper will report on further analysis of the group’s development through a communities of practice lens. References AACSB Jakovljevic, M., Buckley, S., and Bushney, M. (2013). Forming communities of practice in higher education: A theoretical perspective. In Active Citizenship by Knowledge Management & Innovation: Proceedings of the Management, Knowledge and Learning International Conference 2013. ToKnowPress, pp. 1107-1119. Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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