When I looked at this diagram, it made me think about some of the differences between professional development and professional learning.
Project Teams (PT) consists of groups of people working together in a structured way to achieve a goal which has been predetermined by an organisation. PTs operate inside organisations and resemble ‘walled spaces’ in which people may be coopted to the team. Team members are likely to come from the same or similar knowledge areas. The team is likely to be a closed group, which operates in a high predictable, structured way and within a given timeframe. The goal is to produce a tangible outcome, often nowadays called a ‘deliverable’. In this context individual or group learning is not a consideration.
In CoPs groups of people (practitioners) who share a concern or a passion for something they do interact together to learn how to do something better. People engage in joint negotiated activities and discussions to help each other and share information. Time is spent in building trust relationships which in turns acts to increase the flow of ideas/information/shared practices. The CoP is less structured than a project team, and values both group and individual learning. When CoPs operate within an organisation they may still be bound my organisational demands to produce deliverables within a given time frame. There may be some diversity within the group members but they are do gather around a common domain of knowledge.
Networks consists of groups of diverse individuals, who may or may not share a common knowledge area. The individuals chose to be part of the network, which is created external to the organisation. The network is an open entity and is dynamic in the way it operates. Learner agency lies at the heart of this entity, the individual engages according to their own needs, interests and abilities. The learning experience of each participant will be distinctive.
In general, PTs and CoP are examples of methodologies used within organisations for professional development programs. The focus is primarily on developing the skills and knowledge of people to ensure that the strategic goals of the organisation are met. Learner agency is not a consideration, membership is often stable, set time frames are in place and the focus of activity can be narrow, and unchangeable.
External networks, exemplify professional learning since it is the primacy of individual learning that lies at the heart of the network connections. The individual is able to regulate their own learning, being able to make changes according to emergent learning needs. Autonomy, diversity ,interactivity and engagement are the key features of networks which act to promote professional learning.
I agree with our other participants that the distinctions between these different approaches are not clear cut and that there are areas of overlap and blurring around the edges. At the moment I am wondering where the distinction lies between professional learning and personal learning, is it time to ‘drop’ the personal/professional from this label? Am I perpetrating a false dichotomy, between learning at ‘work’ and learning ‘ outside’? I think this is another discussion?