Communities of practice in a community college music program: a case study examining various student expectations for music learning and participation
MetadataShow full item record
According to Cohen and Brawer (2008), there are four curricular functions of community colleges. Students who enroll at community colleges may seek academic transfer, vocational or technical education, developmental education, or continuing education, which includes community service. Community college faculty and administrators face a wide range of students enrolling in their courses and are challenged to stay relevant to each student. Using Wenger’s communities of practice (1998) and Lave and Wenger’s legitimate peripheral participation (1991) as a theoretical lens, I conducted a case study of a community college with similarities to my own place of employment to understand: (a) how do faculty members create and maintain appropriate communities of practice, (b) how and in what ways do the communities of practice available reflect the goals of students, and (c) what challenges do faculty members perceive in their attempt to align communities of practice with student needs. I interviewed all student music majors, all music faculty, the department chair, and the Vice-President of Academic Affairs, reviewed field notes, and analyzed pertinent documents available on the college website. I coded the data for the communities of practice concepts of mutual engagement, shared repertoire, and joint enterprise. My findings suggested that faculty members struggled to stay relevant to student expectations, a task that was exacerbated by many students who did not have expectations or who had unrealistic expectations. The diverse student body included many students that did not have career goals, academic expectations, or an understanding of the role of the community college. The case had such a small number of music majors that adding courses and programs was only possible within the structures of the current offerings and only if the cost to faculty members and the institution was minimal. Although idealistic about the potential of new programs that would attract more students, faculty members had to serve the diverse expectations of the student body inside the existing programs and courses. Implications from this research point to the importance of faculty members and administrations promoting open dialogue with one another, as well as with students, to align their goals and expectations.