Choosing Change: Using a Community of Practice Model to Support Curriculum Reform and Improve Teaching Quality in the First Year

  • Mary HeathEmail author
  • Tania Leiman


Significant, competing pressures for change have become constants in tertiary teaching. Many academics choose to change teaching and course design to better reflect pedagogical research and support learning. Some changes, however, are imposed by institutional policies responding to the wider higher education context. Whether change is chosen or imposed, managing it is made more difficult by increasing workloads and decreasing opportunities for collaborative decision-making and professional skills development. This chapter describes our experience of facilitating a community of practice with teachers of first year law students as a change management strategy. We established the community of practice with twin hopes. Firstly, we sought to support a research-based first year pedagogy, centred in an integrated approach to curriculum and student support. Secondly, we needed a pragmatic intervention to support implementation of a new curriculum and major changes in university policy with a new cohort of first year staff. A community of practice offered a promising model for achieving pedagogical goals through addressing teachers’ needs, rather than simply escalating demands on staff. We chose a community of practice approach believing it would allow teachers to strengthen collaborations, build skills and share best practices, all of which we believed were essential to creating an integrated first year experience that could result only from a team of first year teachers. This chapter discusses the initiation, development and achievements of our community of practice before turning to considerations of life cycle, leadership, resources and long term sustainability.


Community of practice First year experience Legal education University teaching Change management 



We would like to acknowledge the inspiration of Cassandra Star and Jacquelin McDonald; David Bamford who as the Dean who enthusiastically supported the creation of the CoP; the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law, who supported the CoP through a Teaching and Learning Innovation grant; the Flinders CoP programme which has since provided support to several CoPs at Flinders (including ours); the anonymous referees; and especially, the first year staff who have participated in the CoP and made it a force for creativity and mutual support. Finally, we want to thank the students whose perspectives have driven the work of the CoP and those who have welcomed innovations that have arisen from our collaborative work in the CoP. We also thank Claire Nettle for her fine editing. Needless to say, any flaws this paper contains are all our own work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Flinders University School of LawAdelaideAustralia

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