Identity and motivation for engagement within a professional distributed community of practice

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Steele, Haley Kay

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Many learning organizations are using communities of practice as a strategy for knowledge sharing among members. Ensuring those members' participation in the activities of the community remains a problem for instructional designers, particularly in the case of communities that use an electronic environment as a means of communication. Wenger (1998) suggests that developing an "identity of participation" is the basis for an individual's motivation to participate in the practices of a community. In order to better understand the interplay of identity and motivation, this study supplemented Wenger's work with self-determination theory, which focuses on how motivation is produced by an individual's personality developing and functioning in a social setting. This framework was used in a mixed-methods study of a distributed community of practice for instructors from many different universities, in order to better understand the interplay between identity, motivation, and participation in such a community. The study found that age was an identity factor that made a statistically significant difference in motivation in this community, with participants over 60 years of age indicating that their basic needs for motivation were not being met as well as other age groups. It was also found that those who identified themselves as experts within the community did not feel motivated to share their knowledge, but instead saw their role as a passive receiver of information. Contrary to expected outcomes, community members did not report having technical concerns that hampered their motivation to participate, nor did they indicate having issues with the overseeing organization for this community. However, members did feel that the universities that employed them exerted undue control over their participation within this community, particularly in regards to demands on their time.



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