Redesigning for Student Success: Cultivating Communities of Practice in a Higher Education Classroom

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Launa Gauthier


In this paper, I discuss the process of redesigning and teaching a mandatory, academic skill building course for students on academic probation at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) in Atlantic Canada. The rationale for redesigning the course was to offer an alternative, holistic instructional approach for instructors who were teaching a modular-based curriculum. The original course was designed to focus on improving students’ individual self-efficacy and motivation for academic success; however, the social and relational nature of learning was not articulated as an underpinning theory in the curriculum. In the new curriculum, I draw on both Etienne Wenger’s (1998) notions of communities of practice as sites for learning and Howe and Strauss’ (2000; 2007) work on generational analysis as theoretical frameworks. Furthermore, I incorporate Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder’s (2002) principles for cultivating communities of practice as a way of putting theory into practice. Initial data collection led to the main inquiry question: How could a curriculum, centered on building community in the classroom, help students to cultivate meaningful learning experiences that take learning beyond a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality? This question guided the curricular design process and also my experiences teaching the course at MSVU during the Fall semester of 2012


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Gauthier, L. (2016). Redesigning for Student Success: Cultivating Communities of Practice in a Higher Education Classroom. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(2), 1–13.
Author Biography

Launa Gauthier, Queen's University

I am PhD student in Education, with a focus on curriculum. My program of research is centered on narrative identity, and teaching and learning in higher education. At Queen's I also work in Educational Development and as a teacher educator in the Faculty of Education.


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