Supported Student Success: Communities of Practice in Higher Education

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This research tells a story about how students form communities of practice that help them succeed in graduate school. Told within the context of individual and collective experiences, it holds valuable lessons for how student success can be supported across the higher education landscape. Communities of practice can develop spontaneously when individuals involved in a common activity or with a sense of shared identity come together to deal with organizational complexities or establish a forum for continued learning. The practice of becoming an accomplished and successful student who is able to develop scholarly abilities and deepen disciplinary understanding, experience personal growth and achievement, while at the same time maintaining a healthy school-work-life balance is a non-trivial exercise. Membership in a community of practice can help students achieve success as part of the process of navigating this complex journey. Generously informed by the experiences of Prescott College Sustainability Education doctoral students, this research used survey responses, anecdote circles, interviews, and grounded theory methods to determine how communities of practice develop among graduate students in support of their success. This presentation asks and answers questions about what communities of practice are, how and why they develop, and what value they can bring to higher education.