Communities of practice in music education: a self-study
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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES; 2016), contingent faculty comprise nearly half of the higher education teaching workforce. I was a contingent faculty member working in a music teacher preparation program at a small college in the Northeast U.S. Using Wenger’s communities of practice (1998) and Lave and Wenger’s legitimate peripheral participation (1991) as a theoretical lens, I conducted a self-study to understand: (a) how our group of two full-time and two part-time contingent faculty negotiated our work, and (b) how my contingent faculty identity was shaped through participating in the group. I analyzed transcriptions of group meetings, email messages sent among the group members, and brief interviews to establish that our community of practice (CoP) was positioned relative to broader enterprises, such as accrediting bodies and the state department of education that regulated teacher licensure. We negotiated our practices in response to their standards and regulations, and we often felt that our practices were constrained. I learned that the members of our CoP had rich histories of membership in other CoPs, and knowledge and identity from those CoPs were constantly reconciled with new understandings and identity. I learned that multimembership can be a hindrance for some, yet it can also be a benefit that helps propel the work of a CoP forward. My identity was shaped through dialogue with other members of the community. I learned that it is common for contingent faculty to feel as I did: autonomous and competent in my teaching practices, yet detached from the department (Kezar & Sam, 2010; Levin & Hernandez, 2014; Shaker, 2008). Learning some of the history of the joint enterprise helped me feel more connected and empowered, and as my dialogue with the full-time tenure-track faculty continued, I was given additional responsibility for developing and subsequently teaching two new courses. Very little research has been conducted from the perspective of contingent faculty in higher education. This self-study was therefore a timely addition to the literature, and it should be replicated, extended to other teacher education faculty, and also to collaborative self-studies between full-time and contingent faculty.
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