Photo taken by drone courtesy of Professor Mukila Maitha, Share-ousel Spring 2018

Written by Stephanie Whalen, Chair, Academy for Teaching Excellence & Associate Professor, English and Interdisciplinary Studies

This fall, the Communities of Practice (CoP) program will begin the next phase of development by establishing an annual cycle for planning, budgeting, and reporting. Last April, the first annual Share-ousel event provided an opportunity for representatives from all CoPs to share their work and give and receive feedback from members of other CoPs in an interactive poster session; participants rotated around the room reading about CoP goals and activities, perusing related artifacts, and leaving comments on feedback grids. Participants remarked on promising ideas from the posters, suggestions for improvement, questions they had, and other ideas for the groups to consider. The Share-ousel will be an annual tradition each spring to gather CoP members and celebrate the work being done throughout the program. Our first event demonstrated the commitment and enthusiasm of our CoPs with all fourteen groups represented and a festive lunch at the conclusion of the morning program and then sessions to address successes and challenges following the meal.

The next step in program development is to establish an annual fall tradition in which CoPs pitch what they have envisioned for their action plans for the coming year and make any related budget requests.

Why are we calling the fall event Action Plan-tasia?
Plan-tasia is a play on the classic Disney film Fantasia, which is comprised of eight short animations and a score of classical music meant to engage the imagination. The production of this 1940 masterpiece was a group undertaking in which teams of skilled artists collaborated to come up with creative, meaningful representations of dream-like visions. Similarly, Communities of Practice are meant to engage groups of skilled practitioners to generate and explore innovative ideas that would not be possible without synergy among the members. Action Planning is a creative group process that represents the magic of coming together to develop an intricate and inspiring plan for work that will invigorate and improve classroom practice. A Fantasia is a musical composition that is free form so that the artist can improvise in an unrestricted way, yet it often combines several familiar tunes and a variety of forms or styles. In a CoP, the members are free to experiment by implementing something new in their practice that builds on their combined experiences and varying approaches to student success.

When is Plan-tasia?
The annual Action Plan-tasia will take place on Friday, September 7 from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. in the Academy, F317. Sign-ups for times to pitch Action Plan ideas and budget requests will be coordinated by the Academy with CoP facilitators.

Who needs to attend?
Representatives from each new or continuing CoP will need to attend in order to share and explain their action plans and any budget requests for the coming year as well as answer brief questions. The group facilitator is recommended but not required to attend.

Who are CoPs pitching action plans to?
There will be a gallery of observers comprised of Academy staff; facilitators and members from other CoPs are also invited to attend. The gallery is open to all CoP members who may enter or exit the room in between presentations.

How long will each CoP get to pitch their plan?
Each group gets about 15 minutes total—10 minutes to present their action plans and five minutes for questions. The Academy staff and other observers in the gallery may ask clarifying questions once the CoP members have explained their plans.

What time period should the action plan cover?
Action plans presented at the Fall 2018 Plan-tasia should outline intended goals and activities for Fall 2018, Spring 2019, and Summer 2019. Consider that typical CoPs meet an average of once every three weeks for about ninety minutes and plan meetings and projects and activities according to what you estimate your group can accomplish in that time. CoP work in the summer is up to the discretion of the members.

The Academy staff and members from other CoPs who observe from the gallery may give feedback commenting on the action plan proposal. Any revisions to action plans will be due by Friday, September 21. The Academy will confirm approval of action plans with each CoP by September 28.

A mid-cycle check-in with each CoP will occur the first week of February for status and membership updates, adjustment of budgetary needs, and planning to share activities in-progress and/or completed work via a poster template at the upcoming Share-ousel planned for Friday, April 26.

For more information about starting or continuing a CoP and the upcoming Action Plan-tasia, please send inquiries to academy@harpercollege.edu or Stephanie Whalen, Academy Chair, at swhalen@harpercollege.edu.