Growth Through Uncertainty

Jordan, M. E., & Mcdaniel, R. R. (2014). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1–49. doi:10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Aw man, I’m a fifth grader!  Ok, I’m not a fifth grader, but that is who I was connecting with in the article by M.E. Jordan. I have so many new adventures I am starting and these days, uncertainty seems to be my constant state of mind. In addition to starting the Ed. D. program, I am now one of the mentor teachers at my school. To say that I have uncertainty about how my life will work over the next year is an understatement.

When any of my colleagues point out that I’m crazy for taking on so much and that it is going to be so hard, my response is always the same. “Yes, I’m a little crazy, but the most difficult stuff is the most rewarding.” When I read the statement, “Generating uncertainty can facilitate the reorganization of current beliefs, values and conceptions.” (Jordan & Mcdaniel, 2014), I was pleased to find an affirmation of my beliefs; further evidence, that in order to change, one has to work through the issue.

As I continued to reflect on the article and my new position at work I realized that I would not be the only person coming into this new community of practice with uncertainty. The new teachers I will be working with are not only going to be uncertain, but probably apprehensive. Jordan says that when we are presented with another’s uncertainty we will either respond in a socially supportive way or not. It is my job to help the new teachers grow as educators and to build a community of practice that deals with the uncertainty in a positive way. In an article by Wenger, he says that “Members build their community through mutual engagement. They interact with one another, establishing norms and relationships of mutuality that reflect these interactions.” (Wenger, 2000) Building relationships and establishing norms is going to play a huge role in how I can assist others in their uncertainty and vice versa.

I saw so many parallels between the 5th grade class in the article and the community I am now a part of in cohort 9. Each of us has been uncertain at many points over the last few weeks, but as a group we have helped each other in a positive way and have not only worked through our uncertainty, but have created a community of practice who works to support each other through our growth. It is exciting to be a part of it!

Tara Yosso discusses deficit thinking in her article. Even though she is discussing it from the position of minority students, I think it can be applied to any community of practice. She says that “Cultural capital is not just inherited or possessed by the middle class, but rather it refers to an accumulation of specific forms of knowledge, skills and abilities.”(Yosso, 2005) Each person brings cultural capital, regardless of race. As a leader it is really important to remember that everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. In addition, my strengths are not going to be the same as the next person’s. By valuing people for the capital they bring, the community will become a valuable tool that will allow each of us to work together through our trials.

As I continue on my new adventures, I am confident that I can work through all of my uncertainties and help my community members through theirs. It is empowering to know that, at times, everyone has doubts and that working in a community of practice will allow me to grow, in spite of my uncertainty.


Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Sage, 7(2), 225–246. doi:10.1177/135050840072002

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

Original way of knowing

Epistomology is “ones way of knowing” and all of the authors this week seem to address it. Christopher Dunbar Jr. explores the influence shared life experiences have on research (Denzin, Lincoln, Smith, 2008).  Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013) also explores how youth participatory action research (YPAR) compares to traditional methods of research. Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008) provide commentary on methods of research. In Wenger description of the community of practice she also addresses epistemology with the goal of finding ways in which people can work together to affect change. This is a great place to being my inquiry as my focus will be to join my school in a partnership (or a community of practice) with the community’s businesses to increase student achievement. As a researcher I am making an investment of myself and my time, to be in the know with the community and to identify what it means to belong to that community. Therefore, it is important that before I begin, I have a purpose. Likewise, before reading someone else’s research I want to know their purpose. “Knowing, learning, and sharing knowledge are not abstract things we do for their own sake. They are part of belonging.”(Wenger, 2000, p.227)  When I do research I am coming to know the people I interview and the situations they deal with.  As a teacher at my school, I am also a part of the school community but still I do not claim to belong to the community which is made up of the students, parents and local business owners. I think my role may be described more accurately as a “broker” (Wenger, 2000, p.235) between communities. As an insider, in the context of my school community, I feel the community will value this partnership more because it is starting from grassroots.  Liou, Antrop-González, and Cooper’s finding “confirms the values of a grassroots approach to improving schools through learning from key resources in students’ communities” (2009, p.535).   Many of the research methods discussed from the above authors are a grassroots approach. YPAR and community of practice are different ways of knowing. I think about what epistemology we practice most.  There must be several ways of knowing that we practice in an average day, just as there are several communities of practice.  I am curious about the role media plays in our way of knowing.  Media has such a powerful influence over people and what they know.  I imagine a group of students at home in front of their online, first person shooter, video game. As they’re playing they’re wired in with headsets that allow them to communicate vocally. “Communities of practice are the basic building blocks of a social learning system because they are the social ‘containers’ of the competences that make up such a system.”(Wenger, 2000, p.229) A competence is defined by three criteria. One “understand the enterprise well enough to be able to contribute to it”, two; “engage with the community and be trusted as a partner in these interactions” and three; “produce a shared repertoire of communal resources – language, routines, sensibilities, artifacts”, etc. (Wenger, 2000, p.230)    Now imagine the student playing the game.  It seems that he meets the criteria, he contributes in game role play i.e. shooting the enemy, he doesn’t shoot his own players and has learned the maps, names of the enemies and tools of the game. Our surrender to what the media teaches is a connection I worry about because we are not able to direct the media.

Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 123.
Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Liou, D., AntropGonzález, R. & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ CollegeGoing Information Networks. Educational Studies, (45), 534555.
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225246.

Professional Development: Independent or Social Mindset?

I was recently participating in a four-hour Strategic Enrollment Management meeting reviewing our college and district goals related to recruitment, outreach, enrollment, retention and persistence efforts.  During a break, one of my colleagues asked if I was aware of our sabbatical program.  The Maricopa Community Colleges, in an effort to value lifelong learning, is very generous with its policies regarding both managerial and faculty sabbaticals.  The program is for employees who have completed a designated number of years of consecutive service to our district to explore their own professional development and learning with the expressed intent to bring that learning back to our community college system.  Each year, numerous faculty and staff engage in sabbaticals, and the following year, each returns to his/her respective jobs hopefully refreshed and changed (for the better) in some manner.

In Etienne Wenger’s “Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems,” he explores the structure of social learning systems, articulating that the development of social learning systems is essential to the success of organizations.  Within this context, Wenger describes one critical element of social learning systems – boundary encounters.  Boundary encounters are “visits, discussions, sabbaticals [that] provide direct exposure to a practice” (Wenger, p. 236).  Boundary encounters can occur individually, when an employee immerses him or herself into a community of practice.  Or, an encounter can occur in a group, where a team from a given community immerses itself into another community of practice.  An individual boundary encounter may allow a person to become fully immersed in the practice; however, it may be challenging to bring the learning back to one’s organization (Wenger, p. 237).  A boundary encounter experienced as a team may not allow for one’s individual full immersion; however, it may prove more beneficial as a team may be better able to incorporate the learning within their respective practice (Wenger, p. 237).

This concept of individual versus social or team learning impacts my thinking profoundly in relation to faculty development within the developmental education community.  Teaching in higher education is primarily an autonomous experience.  Faculty, generally in isolation, develop and instruct their respective courses.  The same is true for much of the professional development and organizational learning within higher education.  Individual sabbaticals are supported.  Individual professional development is supported, but again, generally based on an individual’s needs or desires.  On occasion, teams may be sent to participate in a conference, but in my experience, that is not the norm, but the exception.

As I reflect on the most effective professional development experiences I have designed or attended, those that involved team participation have indeed had the most transformational effect for the organization.  This leads me to question what types of professional development opportunities are available for community college faculty, or even more specifically, community college faculty who primarily teach developmental education courses?  As Glendale Community College continues to focus its attention on our developmental coursework, I believe we also need to focus our attention on the professional development available to our instructors.  But, how should this professional development be designed?  Our current approach to professional development is to design and offer programs and workshops for faculty to attend individually, focusing on their individual skills and strategies within the college classroom.  Yes, they do attend as a general community of instructors.  However, much of the work is individually based.  Sharing with other participants occurs, but the focus is on individual devleopment.

But, what if this experience was designed differently? What if a team of professionals, working and learning together, supported our developmental students?  And, what if that team became its own defined community of practice, learning and growing together as described in this article?  Presently, I do not believe we have a well-defined community of practice supporting developmental education.  It is emerging at GCC, but it is not yet a defined community of practice.  I think we have an opportunity to create this community of practice, and make it one that incorporates the following elements espoused in this article: events (professional development in nature), leadership, connectivity, membership, projects, and artifacts.  If we take this approach, I believe  we can advance the learning of our faculty and staff, which will I have a positive impact on our students.   But, it is clear to me that we should not approach this in our traditional autonomous mindset; we need to design and create an environment that fosters and promotes social learning for our faculty and staff.


Wenger, Etienne. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.

The Promise of Success

In the article, “Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks” (Liou, Antrop-González, & Cooper, 2009) the authors described the elements necessary to propel students of color to succeed in high school and beyond. Additionally, they described how the action or in-actions of the schools studied and their local communities can affect the student success outcomes.

In my opinion, both of the career/college prep counselors (from separate schools) made similar comments that were biased and insensitive. To quote one of the counselors in the article, “I don’t believe that every kid should go to college. These kids are from families where they have little to live on and the best thing for many of them is to get a job” (Liou, Antrop-González, & Cooper, p. 541). This type of mentality is poisonous to a young adult. If a student has a true desire to go to school then this type of “guidance” will quash their dreams and a chance for a better future. What truly infuriated me was the worry that Miguel, one of the students referred to by one of the counselors, might not be able to fix their car. I am astounded that a professional who is counseling young adults is so self-absorbed that they would steer someone away from college. It is well documented that a college education will reap far more benefits than a high school diploma. “In 2002, the Census Bureau projected lifetime earnings of employees with a bachelor’s degree and those without. Non-degree holders could expect to earn 75% less than a bachelor’s degree holder, who could expect to earn $2.7 million over their lifetime” (Education Portal, n.d.). While I understand that some people are drawn to a career, one should never be categorized into a certain profession due to their color, race, etc. After recently reading the article, “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection” (Howard, 2003) one might venture to guess that the counselors could stand for some self-reflection and work hard to rid themselves of any cultural or color biases in order to provide the best advice to students.

In the article, “Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks” (Liou, Antrop-González, & Cooper, 2009) the authors discussed how community cultural wealth, which is a method used to gain a deeper understanding about how low income students of color enact their information seeking behaviors by developing alternative social networks that enable their academic success. In people of color, there are six forms of capital that comprise the community cultural wealth; they are: aspirational, linguistic, social, navigational, familial and resistance. In my opinion, these are the pillars of strength and guidance for any person trying to achieve a goal. The statements from the students demonstrated there is hope beyond their lack of support from some teachers and guidance counselors. The statement, “It takes a village” came to mind when reading about how the students found alternative ways to achieve their dreams.

I am sure there are studies that examine why a student drops out of school and the multitude of reasons why they would not pursue a college education upon high school graduation. It would be interesting to discover if these students would agree that if they had been exposed to various forms of community cultural wealth then their future would have had a different outcome. Additionally, it would be interesting to see if introducing a support system after dropping out of school would enable them to complete a GED or pursue a college education.


How Much More Do College Graduates Earn Than Non-College Graduates? (n.d.). Retrieved from

Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy : Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 195–202.

Liou, D. D., Antrop-González, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks. Educational Studies, 45(6), 534–555. doi:10.1080/00131940903311347

Communities of Practice


As we learn and grow we ask ourselves the age-old question: Who am I? As I begin reflecting on this question I realize that I am multifaceted and belong to a wide array of social learning systems. When I am at work I am an educator, when I am at Arizona State University I am a scholar, and the list continues. According to Wenger (2000), “since the beginning of history, human beings have formed communities that share cultural practices reflecting their collective learning” (p. 229). I myself can identify with multiple communities of practice, which have given me the feeling of belonging, identity, and intellectual growth. Wegner (2000) describes communities as the basic building block of social learning, if this is the case: How can we use this already embedded human characteristic to help improve our educational practices?

How can we utilize our students’ community identities to help improve the access, excellence, and impact of their education? As educators, we need to view our students as individuals who are members of multiple communities that they seek out for academic and emotional support. Within the article titled, Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College­Going (2009), the authors state that “low-income students of color respond to their needs for educational advancement when conditions to support their college-going identities are severely limited in the school context” (p.534). It is our responsibility as educators to recognize the needs of our students and help connect them with the support resources they need. The question remains: Where are the students receiving the support if they are unable to acquire it within the four walls of the school? Within the same article, Liou , Antrop­González, and Cooper, explore the multiple communities that many of the students belong to and the types of support they receive. A considerable number of students stated that a majority of their support from their families, churches, sports teams, friendships, and community-based organizations. What is stopping our schools from tapping into all of these student support resources?

Schools across the country must identify the key-players in the support of our students and work cohesively to allow for increased student success. Our students would greatly benefit from an intertwined approach to education, where we partner with multiple communities and work together to form a unified educational powerhouse. My belief is that this can happen at the school level by determining key stakeholders in the education of the students, which would lead to a plan to engage all individuals in the academic process. These partnerships can offer the students a wide variety of benefits such as, tutoring, college application support, culturally relevant curriculum, mentoring, academic assistance, and hands-on opportunities to implement information learned in the classroom. As educators, we can bring the communities to our students and give them a higher level of academic access. I unreservedly believe that if schools take the time to determine the key-players in the education of their students, reach out to these stakeholders, and engage them in discussions of partnership, our students would have a higher level of support and a much better chance of receiving an excellent education. There is a wealth of support for our students within the community but it takes effort from the schools to build the appropriate connections.

Not only can we tap into the communities as a means of support, we can also utilize the community-based knowledge that is familiar to our students, in order to assist them in grasping the concepts. Liou et al. (2009) eloquently discuss the “benefits of classroom practice by centering teachers’ pedagogical emphasis on the local, community-based knowledge of working class Mexican students” (p. 536). Teachers who use the local knowledge help students gain better access to the instruction, allowing for students to better relate to the objectives. A similar thought is discussed in the Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (2008), where a “culturally based approach to science education” (p. 487) is addressed. The authors redefine science education for Native American students, which guide me to believe that we can adjust our teaching practices to meet the needs of our diverse student population by means of integrating community-based knowledge into our instructional strategies.

How can we create a solid school community? What steps must we take in order to create a strong tight-knit school community? Wegner (2000) outlines the components required in order to build a strong community of practice, which includes: leadership, connectivity, membership, learning projects, and artifacts (p. 231-232). Membership, where a “community’s members must have critical mass so there is interest, but it should not become so wide that the focus of the community is diffuse and participation does not grab people’s identities,” (p. 232) is particularly relevant to a school community. In order for us to build an effective school, we must take our students into consideration when developing the curriculum. If the students feel as if the curriculum is community-based and culturally relevant, they will be more inclined to identify with the community as a whole.

It is time for our education system to stop believing that a school is an island; we need to begin making greater strides in integrating communities into our academic quest for excellence. We cannot do it alone; we do not have the resources, staff, or knowledge to meet the needs of our students. We must do our homework and reach out to all interested parties. No one entity can educate a child; we must work together as a community.



Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

 Liou, D., Antrop­González, R. & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College­Going Information Networks.Educational Studies, (45), 534­555.

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225­246.

Community Cultural Wealth and High Stakes Information

“I do all kinds of work with people in the community. I work with the Private Industry Council and help people get jobs. I also work with the Historical Society. These jobs keep me busy and focused on school and help me meet lots of interesting people.”

-from “Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks” by Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper.

The word “community” means different things to different people. For me, my community is multi-faceted. My blood family, my in-laws, my spiritual influences, and now, my doctoral program cohort, are all part of my community through shared passion, interests, and goals. I see my community as more than people; they are a network of resources for me to draw from for knowledge and support. The article, Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research discussed the collaboration of students, teachers, researchers and other community entities engaging in action-research to identify and solve systemic issues in education (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013). Wegner (2000) discussed how organizations should design themselves to act as social learning entities to foster a “sense of belong” thus enriching the community of practice holistically. The authors of Keeping up the Good Fight used Flores v. Arizona as a basis for presenting a framework, and approach to having a purposeful discussion on English learning programs and the ways in which the community offers rationalities in support of such programs (Thomas, Aletheiani, Carlson, & Ewbank, 2014). Communities, whether social, familial, educational, and practice-based should be the network in which educational capital and success is cultivated.

In my effort to formulate research focused on micro-inequities and their impact on student retention in higher education environments, I found Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper’s (2009) article on community cultural wealth to be a strong connection to not only my research interests, but to the theme of how community systems impact student learning and their aspirations to attend college.  In short, the article discusses the ways that college-orientated information is shared between teacher-educators and students who have college aspirations, primarily those who come from Latina/o communities. This is a different argument entirely from the large amount of research centered upon access to higher learning for minorities. Rather, this argument seeks to expose the ways in which minority students are not provided with necessary information, also known as “high stakes” information, to be successful in obtaining a college degree (p. 542). An example of this finding can be seen when a guidance counselor holds a belief that all students shouldn’t go to college because there would be no car mechanics, landscapers, or housekeepers in society, further suggesting that these positions are of value to those who’ve obtained a higher-economic status as validation for the argument (Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, & Cooper, 2009).

The findings of the article discovered that the Latina/o students analyzed within the study found alternative ways to seek high stakes information to fulfill their collegial dreams through social, familial, navigational, and linguistic information networks (e.g. building relationships with fellow church members and pastoral staff for guidance and encouragement to keep aspirations intact). This is in comparison to White students who are given a wealth of information such as ACT/SAT supplies, information on Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Dual Enrollment courses, and pre-professional materials (health professions and legal professions) because there is a general belief that they should reasonably be able to attend, and succeed in college.

The negation in delivering high stakes information is, in fact, a micro-inequity because the teacher-educator makes an assumption that students of color, especially those with undereducated parents, shouldn’t be expected to attend college, and thus, denies the student high-stakes information to prepare and succeed in a collegial environment. This act is largely different than overt discrimination, because it is a very small message that is sent to the student throughout their schooling that suggests they have no place in higher education. Unfortunately, some students will succumb to this aggression choosing menial employment positions which perpetuates poverty within their community, while others will use this experience to fuel their aspirations leaning on those information networks mentioned previously.

Information networks are crucial parts of cultural capital, especially for minority students (Yosso, 2005). Where a White student will contact a tutor or guidance counselor for information or advice, minority students may choose to talk to a family member or church parishioner for support. Various experiences and identities contribute the overall cultural wealth and capital of the community. As teacher-educators, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to build and draw upon the identities of our own and those of our students to maintain cultural relevance within our practice.


Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1-23.

Liou, D. D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the promise of community cultural wealth to sustaining latina/o students’ college going information networks. American Educational Studies Association, 534-555.

Thomas, M. H., Aletheiani, D. R., Carlson, D. L., & Ewbank, A. D. (2014). Keeping up the good fight: The said and unsaid in Flors v. Arizona. Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242-261.

Wegner, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization Articles, 7(2), 225-246.

Yosso, T. J. (n.d.). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006