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Building communities of educational enquiry

Cassidy, C. and Christie, D. and Coutts, N. and Dunn, J. and Sinclair, C.M. and Skinner, D. and Wilson, A.W. (2008) Building communities of educational enquiry. Oxford Review of Education, 34 (2). ISSN 0305-4985

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Abstract

This article aims to outline key factors to be considered in the development of communities of enquiry in an educational context and to establish a conceptual and theoretical framework within which much needed empirical work can be carried out. The literature surveyed considers both different types of community and different theoretical positions on how communities develop. Seven factors emerge. 1) A community depends on its members' opportunities to engage in dialogue and other modes of participation. 2) Participation in a community is sustained through the quality of relationships. 3) Perspectives and assumptions underpin the relationships of a community and may offer insights into the dynamics and operation of the community. 4) How a community operates is governed by its structure and context, including the extent to which its structure is imposed or constrained either internally or externally. 5) As a community develops, a climate for its operation also emerges - involving aspects such as tone, environment and potential conflict. 6) The purpose of an enquiry will influence this climate and there may be a need to accommodate or harmonise a multiplicity of purposes arising from the complex interrelationships, perspectives and assumptions involved. 7) A key issue for all communities is control, in relation to who has access to the community, to resources, constraints and power within it. The authors conclude by highlighting a number of tensions or dualities arising from these themes and potential implications for empirical investigations in this field and for those who may seek to build a community of educational enquiry.