Extending the Teacher Education Program Continuum – Reflections on the “Family Plot”

I’ve been thinking about this idea for a couple of years now … but it was Rick Schwier’s Keynote that rekindled some of these ideas, and again, realize how important they can be.

(Note: I use the term ‘community’ a bit loosely in some instances throughout the following passages)

Rick mentioned the idea of the “Family Plot” … that often, the rich communities that are developed through online courses often end unceremoniously. WebCT connections (for instance), are simply archived away with little thought of extending the potential of what was created.

I’ve struggled with ideas related to this for several years teaching in the Faculty of Education. While not every single course section I have taught over the years ended up being what I would call a rich community, there were certainly a few amazing examples. Many students just would not let the WebCT discussions die and I still have not “put to rest” a course that I taught over two years ago (which makes me wonder, why, other than student personalities … some course communities persist, and some never make it out of the gate).

However, I have often wanted to extend a model that takes students through a multicourse community. Why can’t we develop a community from course one (or earlier) right through, and beyond convocation? Could this work? And what effect would a community of learners like this have on developing future communities of teaching practice throughout our province, nationally and internationally? I feel that the conditions of a traditional program (the x years. time-served model) could be much improved if we could develop communities that continue to exist without program or geographic constraints. I think it’s possible, and potentially an incredibly powerful idea … I am just not sure what it would take.

One thought on “Extending the Teacher Education Program Continuum – Reflections on the “Family Plot”

  1. This is a great idea, and something that is worthy of study, Alec. Now, if we have the fortitude for a longitudinal study of how communities are formed, maintained and self-sustained, I think it could be ground-breaking work.

    I’ve had the same experience as you have. Some communities combust, some don’t. I think we’re all learning a bit more about how to support communities, and how to avoid doing some bone-headed things to disrupt them, but we are far from knowing what’s really going on. Caleb Clark, who I think was a graduate student at San Diego State University, wrote an article a few years ago that suggested that communities could not be built–we could only put some things in motion and hope for the best. Maybe he was right.

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