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Innov High Educ (2009) 34:307320 DOI 10.


Janusian Leadership: Two Profiles of Power in a Community of Practice

Lisa D. Weaver & Meghan J. Pifer & Carol L. Colbeck

Published online: 23 June 2009 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Abstract This article investigates how informal positions of power emerge within a community of practice and how positions of power influence communication and understanding about key issues. Findings from a study of one community of practice reveal Janusian leadership within the group and the effects of emergent, informal power roles on group goals, adding to theoretical knowledge about small groups, academic peer groups, and communities of practice. Key words communities of practice . leadership . power . sensemaking . small groups When teaching undergraduate students, instructors often depend on their near peers as sources of knowledge about teaching and learning (Rogers 1995; Foertsch et al. 1997). Peer

Lisa Weaver earned both her Ph.D. in Higher Education and her M.Ed. in Counselor Education from The Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Academic Development and Counseling as well as the Director of the Haven Achievers Program at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include undergraduate student retention, at-risk college students, teaching and learning for faculty, and organization theory in higher education. Meghan Pifer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Higher Education Program at The Pennsylvania State University. She received her Ed.M. in Higher Education Administration from Boston University. Her research interests include faculty careers, social networks, and organization theory in higher education. Carol Colbeck earned both her Ph.D. in Higher Education and her M.A. in Sociology from Stanford University. She is currently the Dean of the Graduate College of Education and Professor of Higher Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research investigates how social and organizational contexts shape academic work. L. D. Weaver (*) Department of Academic Development and Counseling, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA, USA e-mail: M. J. Pifer Higher Education Program, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA e-mail: C. L. Colbeck Graduate College of Education, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, USA e-mail:


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collaboration can provide a means of exchanging resources, experiences, and ideas related to teaching and learning, which may be particularly helpful for instructors with less teaching-related knowledge and expertise than their peers. Some faculty members have chosen to come together to form communities of practice in an effort to discuss curriculum and teaching (Fox and Hackerman 2003). These communities of practice provide forums for individuals to communicate and collaborate on topics of importance to them. Although communities of practice are comprised of peers, it is likely that group leaders will be appointed or will emerge as the group develops. These leaders are likely to demonstrate power that will affect group outcomes. While learning is situated within power relationships, the understanding of how power operates among peers in communities of practice and similar groups is underdeveloped (Huzzard 2004). Further research is needed to explore the role of informal leaders in groups, their characteristics, and the behaviors they use to create change (Pescosolido 2001). To address this gap, we explored how perceived power among individuals in a community of practice influences communication and collective sensemaking. Sensemaking is an ongoing process through which individuals and groups repeatedly rationalize their behavior in order to understand the environment and their role in it (Weick 1993).Our two research questions were as follows: 1) What types of relative power emerge among group members in a community of practice? 2) How do positions of power influence communication and sensemaking in a community of practice? Findings revealed janusian leadership in the community of practice, in which two different and potentially conflicting types of power emerged and became mutually supportive in efforts to meet the groups goals. Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, shifts from one vision to another, and the growing up of young people. He also represented time because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. These janusian power roles affected types, topics, and frequencies of communication within the group, as well as collective sensemaking among group members.

Theoretical Framework Our study was grounded in theories and empirical research on communities of practice, power, informal leadership, group communication, and collective sensemaking. Communities of Practice A community of practice is a group of individuals who are pursuing learning about a specific topic. They foster individual growth through collaborative relationships and activities (Buysse et al. 2003). Barab and Duffy (2000) identified three essential characteristics of a community of practice: (a) its members have similar goals, meanings, and common history; (b) it is located within a larger system; and (c) it has a reproduction cycle as older members leave and newer ones join. Educational communities of practice have developed to address such issues as teacher education, course revisions, or organizational changes in departments. More recently, educational communities of practice have addressed ways to integrate educational research and practice.

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Communities of practice focus on learning as situated within social relations; knowledge is constructed through communication among the community members (Lave and Wenger 1991). Although educators tend to emphasize equal responsibility and the absence of formal leadership in communities of practice (Buysse et al. 2003; Pugach 1999), Lave and Wenger s (1991) distinction between legitimate peripheral participation and full participation implies power differences among members. Newcomers to a community of practice may initially participate on the periphery and engage in minimal conversations through which they learn about the organization of the community. Over time, their participation may increase and become more central to the community of practice (Huzzard 2004; Contu and Willmott 2003). Research on peer groups and other small groups provides insights into the structures and functions of communities of practice. Hare and ONeill (2000) defined peer groups as those whose members are essentially similar in skills and abilities and/or social status and power.the principle units of our society and the major mechanism for social decision making, resource allocation, and membership intent and energy (p. 24). They cited academic peer groups as among those that contribute to social change, and thus they are major contributors to societys well-being (p. 25). Power The power held by each individual in a group such as a community of practice is relative to that held by other members and is specific to the situation (Pfeffer 2001). Power in a community of practice finds its expression in the discourse through which parties to a relationship interact (Huzzard 2004, p. 355). Power need not involve conflict, but it may be manifest in shaping agendas or subtle avoidance of decision-making (Bacharach and Baratz 1962). Although there may be no formal structure of power within a community of practice, there is likely to be an informal sense of relative influence among members of the group. Whether power is formal or informal, it provides an individual with opportunities to influence others (Scott and Davis 2007). In a study of decision-making groups, Hirokawa and Pace (1983) found that groups contain at least one member who influences the thinking and discussion that occurs in the group, which in turn influences the quality of the decisions made by the group. French and Raven (1959) distinguished five types of power. Reward power depends on an individuals ability either to give another something positive or take away something negative. Coercive power refers to the ability to punish another if the other does not conform. Legitimate power is based upon an individuals perception that another person has the right to prescribe behavior for other individuals. Referent power is present when others desire to emulate a particular person. Expert power is attributed to individuals perceived as having the most knowledge or experience regarding the subject at hand. In this study, we explored which of French and Ravens types of power emerged within the context of a community of practice. Informal Leadership Leadership and power are closely related. The emergence of informal leadership in small groups such as communities of practice has been well documented in the literature (Day et al. 2004; Pescosolido 2002). Pescosolido (2001) combined previous definitions of the informal leader to construct a description of one who exerts influence over other group members, comes from the team and is chosen by the team,does not receive special compensation or


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rewards, and does not hold the power of hiring and firing (p. 78). Emergent and informal group leaders often serve as interpreters of events, discussion leaders, and models of appropriate actions and responses within the group (Pescosolido 2002; Huzzard 2004). Through this role, informal leaders are in a unique position to influence the beliefs and expectations of other group members (Pescosolido 2001, p. 75) and create a mental framework that promotes common understanding and action (Day et al. 2004, p. 864). At the same time, a lack of clear identities or leadership roles among group members can hinder progress toward group goals. For example, Hare and ONeill (2000) found that when leader and follower roles in peer groups are undefined and uncertain, group members experience unfulfilled expectations, frustration, mistrust, and disappointment. Communication A community of practice provides a context for participants to share ideas, learning, and knowledge and analyze the work to be transformed (Brown and Duguid 2001). Communication involves ongoing exchange between members as they share their individual interpretations of ideas and events (Weick 1993). The communication process may lead to individual and group commitment to action (Weick 1993). In communities of practice, communication is not only necessary for members to understand each other; it also becomes a way by which dominant participants may take a more active role than others in constructing the groups learning (Huzzard 2004). To understand member interaction in a community of practice, it is necessary to examine both how the individuals are talking to each other, or their type of communication, and the topics of their conversations. The topic of communication in the community of practice refers to the goal toward which the communication is directed (Campbell 2001; Hirokawa 1980). The types of communication are equally important for accomplishing the goals of the group. For example, in a study of communication and problem-solving among groups of undergraduate engineering students, Campbell (2001) found that statements providing clarification, requests for clarification, and off-task communication inhibited the progress of problem-solving while encouragement and support helped to facilitate the process. Sensemaking As defined earlier, sensemaking is the ongoing process used by individuals and groups to rationalize their behavior in order to understand the environment and their role in it. This allows people to simplify and make meaning from conflicting or ambiguous interpretations of events (Weick 1993). Individuals or groups engage in sensemaking as they reflect on past events and try to understand and justify their actions relative to those events. Foldy (2006) wrote, When we make sense of something, we are a force in its creation, maintenance, and modification (p. 354). Sensemaking is central to organizational change; through this process members of a group construct schemas through which to interpret a given situation, determine desired changes, and engage in actions designed to meet their goals (Foldy 2006). In the process of collective sensemaking, group members make meaning out of circumstances that are unclear and ambiguous (Kezar and Eckel 2002; Weick 1995).Through interaction within the group and committed interpretation, individual sensemaking becomes collective sensemaking. Weick (1993) defined committed interpretation as the use of binding social action to generate richer qualitative information that stabilizes a confusing flow of events (p. 10). Through the process of committed interpretation, collective sensemaking occurs

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when actions are voluntary, public, and explicit. In this study of a community of practice, we explored how group members in positions of power influenced sensemaking within the group and thus influenced the actions and outcomes of the group.

The Study Because our study was exploratory, we designed the research as a case study. Case study research is useful for building or extending theory (Eisenhardt 1989; Yin 2002). Our qualitative case study explored interactions among members of a community of practice over the course of one academic semester. To understand the emergence of power and its effect on communication and sensemaking, we conducted interviews with 13 of the 14 members of the community of practice and observed twelve of their meetings. Sample The members of the community of practice in this study are instructors from one department within the College of Science at Woodland University1, a major research university. Participants included both tenured and tenure-ineligible instructors. Descriptive characteristics of all participants are included as Table I. The community of practice began in the 1990s when a group of six instructors started meeting to discuss issues related to undergraduate teaching. Since then, more instructors have joined the group, and it has sustained itself for over 14 years without formal sanction from the department. Participation is voluntary (Weaver 2006). The group meets approximately one hour per week over lunch to discuss issues related to the curriculum and undergraduate education in the department. Their mission is the improvement and enhancement of undergraduate education, such as addressing curriculum issues and upgrading lab spaces and other facilities. Initially, all fourteen members agreed to participate in the research. One member attended only four of the twelve sessions and was unable to participate in the final interview. Thirteen participants are included in the analysis. All study participants attended at least half, or six, of the total meetings observed and participated in both stages of interviews. The group included three emeritus professors, two full professors, and eight tenure-ineligible faculty members (five lab directors, two teaching faculty, and one postdoctoral fellow). Data Collection We collected data through individual interviews and observations of the group meetings. All individual interviews and group meetings were audio recorded and transcribed. The first author conducted two interviews with each member of the community of practice. The first interviews, conducted early in the fall semester, elicited information about group characteristics including each individuals level of participation, discussion topics, and types of communication in the group. Individuals were also asked which member(s) of the group most influenced them personally and were asked to describe the overall group process. The first

To ensure the confidentiality of the participants in this study, all names of individuals and the institution are pseudonyms. Approval to involve human subjects was obtained from the institutions social science institutional review board.

312 Table I Participant Characteristics Participant Ben (The Sage) Donna Eric Fred Jack Janice Justin Kathy Keith (The Organizer) Kim Michael Scott Shelly Gender M F M M M F M F M F M M F Tenure status Tenured Tenure-ineligible Tenure-ineligible Tenured Tenured Tenure-ineligible Tenured Tenure-ineligible Tenure-ineligible Tenure-ineligible Tenure-ineligible Tenured Tenure-ineligible Rank Emeritus

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Years of teaching experience 40 49 10 19 10 19 40 49 30 39 09 30 39 10 19 20 29 09 10 19 20 29 10 19

Lab Director Lab Director Emeritus Emeritus Instructor Full Instructor Lab Director Lab Director Post-Doc Full Lab Director

author observed all communication among members of the community of practice during their regular lunch meetings for twelve weeks during the fall semester of 2004. Following the completion of the initial interviews, the third author introduced the concept of Teaching-as-Research to the community of practice. Teaching-as-Research involves the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods to develop and implement teaching practices that advance student learning (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning 2005). The third author discussed its relevance to the participants field and asked members of the group to discuss in pairs ways that they have applied the concept of Teaching-as-Research to their own teaching practices. The members of the community of practice then had the opportunity to ask questions about Teaching-asResearch. The second round of interviews was conducted at the beginning of the spring semester. These interviews elicited individuals opinions about how group discussions, particularly those about Teaching-as-Research, affected the community of practice as a whole. Data Analysis Upon completion of observations and two rounds of interviews, we examined communication and relationships within the community of practice. In our study, the goals of the communication were identified as teaching, research, Teaching-as-Research (or Scholarship of Teaching and Learning), procedural (related to the group mechanics), logistics (planning of meetings other than that of the community of practice), administrative (related to equipment purchases, budgets), or off-task (statements or questions not related to the previously listed topics). The types of communication coded for our study are defined in Table II. Using the transcribed record of meetings and interview notes, we identified topics, frequencies, and types of communication. We constructed a profile for each participant that included personal characteristics (rank, gender, and professional experience), perceptions of the group process, and identification and perceptions of influential members within the community of practice. Individual profiles also included summaries of communication patterns, including percent of individuals contributions to total group communication and percent of individuals communication by type and topic.

Innov High Educ (2009) 34:307320 Table II List and Definitions of Communication Types Initiation Restatement Asking for restatement Clarification Asking for clarification Substantiation Asking for substantiation Modification Asking for modification Acceptance Asking for acceptance Rejection Asking for rejection Synthesis Asking for synthesis Summary Support Earliest mention of a specific issue Repeating a statement/question


Asking for something to be repeated Development of an idea through elaboration, example or explanation Asking for an explanation of an idea Offering proof or evidence Asking for proof or evidence Revising an idea Asking for the revision of an idea Accepting an idea Asking others to accept an idea Rejection of an idea Asking others to reject an idea Making connections between ideas Asking someone to present the connection Paraphrasing Helping or praising

We coded each utterance based on the topics that were discussed and the types of communication that were used. Hirokawa (1980) defined utterances as the continuous flow of verbal communication by a group member to the point at which she or he terminates verbal output or is interrupted by another participant (p. 314). Utterances were further coded according to the communicators rank, gender, and experience. We analyzed potential relationships between frequencies of discussion topics, types of communication, and frequency of interruptions in communication. This analysis provided evidence of influence and power relationships within the community of practice and the extent to which participants engaged in discussions about various topics. We then reviewed the group transcripts and coded extended interactions for norms and values espoused and relative power expressed by participants. We compared patterns derived from the analysis of the interviews and observations to determine working propositions about the relationship between relative power, types and topics of communication, and the sensemaking process (Yin 2002). The most powerful participants in the community of practice were identified based on participant responses to specific questions during the initial interview (i.e., Is there anyone in the group whom you see as having the greatest influence on the group? and Who in the group has had the greatest influence on you?). The profiles of these two individuals were compared to each other and to those of all other members of the community of practice in order to investigate potential relationships between power, communication, and sensemaking.

Results Our analysis of the data revealed two potentially competing but mutually supportive profiles of power within the community of practice. The types, frequencies, and topics of communication that characterized the two influential members of the group established them as emergent leaders within the community of practice, which then enabled them to


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direct communication, influence discussions, and lead the group in collective sensemaking regarding multiple key issues. Referring back to French and Ravens (1959) five types of power (reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power), we found that two types of power emerged within this community of practice: referent power and expert power. Two Profiles of Power As explained earlier, Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings. Images of Janus display his two opposing faces, which look in two different directions simultaneously (Harris and Platzner 1998). Janusian thinking, as originally described by Rothenberg (1979) and applied to the context of higher education by Cameron (1984), is the understanding of two seemingly opposing thoughts as not only true, but complementary. Janusian thinking presents a way of recognizing contradiction and, in fact, capitalizing on it to facilitate creative approaches to conflict resolution and organizational advancement (Rothenberg 1979). Because janusian thinking is a strategy for encouraging flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and problem-solving (Cameron 1984), it is well suited for the academic community of practice explored through this research. A majority of participants identified two individuals as being especially influential either within the community of practice or to the individual respondent specifically. We refer to the two group members who demonstrated power roles in the community of practice as the Sage and the Organizer. We chose these terms because of the characteristics attributed to each of these individuals, as described below. The Sage and the Organizer were identified as most influential within the community of practice by 11 of 12 and six of 12 participants, respectively. (One of the 13 participants did not respond to this question because she was a member of another department.) Both the Sage and the Organizer identified the other as being influential. The third most influential member of the group was identified as influential by only three of the 12 participants. The Sage and the Organizer each demonstrated expert power, and other participants perceived them to be knowledgeable about the issues discussed in the meetings. The Sage and the Organizer influenced the community of practice in different ways. The Sage, an emeritus faculty member, was one of the more senior members of the group and has been a member since the inception of the group. He held referent power and served as a role model within the group. The Sage alluded to being a reflective person and was identified by participants as having wisdom, experience, and organizational history. While the Sage did not demonstrate power overtly in the group meetings, he was highly influential in shaping the ideas and practices of individual members. When asked who in the group had the greatest influence on them personally, eight participants identified the Sage. Their responses included statements such as he was my mentor, he was very supportive and gave me unconditional support, and he taught me to think better. The Sage was identified as having expert power due to his position, his character, and his history of leadership within the community of practice. Members comments reflected the expert power of the Sage, he is well respected and extremely professional, and his referent power, he was the foundation of the group. Others identified him as one of those people who does think of the greater good and the kind of teacher I aspire to be. Individual members addressed him more often than other participants when they were speaking. When asked why the Sage was so influential, participants provided responses such as he is the foundation [of the community of practice] and he developed a consensus and talked through things. The Sage was identified as a model of what the group hoped to represent.

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One member noted, His values and personal ethics are beyond reproach, and everyone honors him for that. This referent, expert power differed from the Organizer s processdriven power. The Organizer had also been a member of the group since its inception. Unlike the Sage, he was a mid-career scholar; and he had an informal leadership role in the department although he was a tenure-ineligible lab director. The Organizer managed the group process. Participants in the community of practice stated that he set the informal agenda for meetings and tried to keep the discussions on task. The Organizer exerted his expert power through agenda-setting and directing the meetings. This informal leadership role is consistent with the Sages feelings that the Organizer s voice penetrates and that his own voice was just too soft around the edges. As the Sage said during his initial interview, I may have been influential before; but now it is [the Organizer]. Maybe this is because he is so close to what is going on in the educational program, he is committed to the program being good; if he says something, everybody hears him. Scott stated that the Organizer was the key person in the group for about the last 4 or 5 years. Group members comments reflected the Organizer s expert power through statements such as he has a great deal of teaching experience and has influenced my teaching. He had demonstrated the ability to initiate topics of conversation within the group and had over 20 years of teaching experience. The Organizer, who had the highest frequency of utterances, had a more lasting effect than the relatively quiet Sage on the topics of communication through initiating and leading discussions. Ben and Justin described the Organizer as one who thinks about things deeply, and thinks things through and is very open to others. The Organizer appeared to manage the group and attended every session. Members asked him about agenda items, and he proposed the issues that should be addressed during the sessions. Participants said the Organizer influenced the group because he is thorough and detailed and he organizes and keeps track of things. Participants felt the Organizer was influential to them personally because, for example, he is very patient, and he really has the overall picture. Types, Frequencies, and Topics of Communication While the Sage and the Organizer both had power and influence within the community of practice, they had differing effects on the topics of communication and collective sensemaking within the group over the course of the semester. They had different frequencies of communication and addressed different topics in the group discussions. The Organizer had the highest percentage of utterances during the sessions; he spoke 15.6% of the total utterances. In contrast, the Sages utterances comprised only 4.7% of the groups total communication. Both, however, used the same types of communication most frequently, which was a clarifying statement, followed by asking others to clarify their statements. In addition, they both contributed statements of modification as well as statements of acceptance. The Organizer initiated more topics of conversation in the sessions than any other participant. He spoke 38 of the 151 initiation utterances. Only two other participants initiated a relatively large number of topics for discussion (32 and 21 utterances). The Organizer s initiating statements were mostly about teaching, procedural, and administrative issues. The Organizer contributed a great deal to the conversations regarding administration (21.3 % of the total utterances), one of the two topics most discussed during the semester in which we observed this community. (Of the 4,106 total utterances


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2,023 were about teaching, and 1,093 were about administration.) In contrast, the Sage made only three of the 151 initiating statements during the twelve observed sessions. He had 146 out of the total 4,106 utterances for the group and contributed minimally to the conversations regarding administration (1.4% of the total utterances). Participants noted the different power roles exerted by the Sage and the Organizer. For example, during the fifth session, after the group had learned about Teaching-asResearch, the Organizer said that the presentation made him think about how much the group had moved away from discussions of teaching and that there should be a conscious effort to return to those conversations whenever possible. Outside the group sessions, the Sage suggested that one of the group members (Donna) present her reflective efforts at curricular or teaching improvement. During the seventh session, one member of the group stated, We thought that it would be fun to offer the opportunity to whoever wanted to take the podium for a while periodically and say something about an advancement in a class or something thats going on in a specific class or lab situation rather than doing just always tons of miscellaneous items like we usually do. Donna has been waiting patiently for a few weeks to talk about the subject of (a particular course). Donna began her presentation by stating, Well, this is actually [the Sages] idea to talk about it, and she then spent most of the session discussing changes she had made to one of her classes based on student feedback. Group members asked questions and made suggestions for further refinement of the course. Thus, both the Organizer and the Sage played a role in one continuation of conversation about Teaching-as-Research, but in different ways. The Organizer s frequent communications about administration of the curriculum and procedures of the group appeared to exert a stronger influence on topics discussed in the community of practice than did comments made by the Sage. Collective Sensemaking in the Community of Practice During the twelve observed sessions, members of the community of practice discussed five topics at some length. These five topics constituted over one half of the total group utterances (2,658 of 4,106.) The group members engaged in conversation about each of the major discussion topics as they tried to understand the current situation in an attempt to improve it. Of these five major topics, only two resulted in collective sensemaking. These were discussions of the space the department had acquired from the College, an administrative issue, and evaluation of teaching assistants, a teaching issue. The two topics that resulted in collective sensemaking in the community of practice involved the group members taking voluntary action (changing the grading system and requesting building space) to which they were committed. In addition, they were explicit in their plans to discuss it publicly with individuals outside the community of practice who were affected by their actions. These teaching and administrative conversations continued during several of the sessions and involved collective sensemaking in the community of practice. As noted above, three of the discussions within the community of practice did not involve sensemaking. Discussions regarding the new major, online resources, and Teaching-as-Research did not lead to any action or decisions made by the group. There was no need for the participants to justify the new major or the use of online resources since they had not made the decisions to offer the programs. They also had no need to plan explicitly to present these ideas publicly. The discussion regarding Teaching-as-Research was also not one that the participants had voluntarily chosen. It was introduced by an

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external source. None of these three ideas required commitment on the part of the members of the community of practice. While the Sage demonstrated influence on individual group members, often outside of group meetings, and while he established the standard to which participants held themselves, the Organizer initiated discussions of the two topics that led to collective sensemaking. The Organizer spent most of his time talking about teaching and administration, which were the discussion topics that occurred most frequently in the group. The Organizer had a stake in each of these issues. First, he was interested in identifying better practices for grading teaching assistants. Second, he was concerned with securing meeting space for the community of practice as a way of reflecting its presence to the department. The Organizer engaged in a great deal of conversation (utterances) regarding both of these topics and was able to influence the direction of the communication. Conversations initiated by the Organizer tended to last longer than those initiated by other participants. Thus, he was informally setting the agenda. Other members of this community of practice looked to him to establish the agenda and to lead discussions. This supports findings from prior research that groups contain at least one member who is able to influence the topic of discussion (Hirokawa and Pace 1983). One example of the Organizer shaping the agenda or conversation topic in a session involved the discussion of Teachingas-Research. He suggested the group should discuss Teaching-as-Research, and the group accepted his suggestion. After a short conversation about Teaching-as-Research, however, the direction of the conversation changed when the Organizer responded to another participants question about curriculum changes. The Organizer continued the discussion about curriculum revisions, and other group members joined in the conversation.

Discussion As with the two faces of Janus, the Sage and the Organizer held different but equally influential power roles in this community of practice. The Sage was an icon within the group, who established the standard of values and ethics to which the group held itself. He influenced the group through both modeling and establishing behavioral norms and through conversations with participants outside of group meetings related to the work of the community of practice. The Organizer, on the other hand, was the key person in the group responsible for its progress and establishing its future direction. These potentially conflicting power roles both had value in the community of practice. It may be that in voluntary peer groups, such as the community of practice explored through this research, different leadership roles and styles emerge to achieve different goals, thus advancing the work of the group without creating power conflicts or unclear communication. Power relationships influence the learning that occurs in a community of practice (Huzzard 2004). While a community of practice may not have a formal power structure, influence among group members is likely to emerge through informal leaders. Through their communication, dominant participants may be more active in constructing the learning that occurs in the group. At its worst, emergent power in a community of practice has the potential to rest in a member with hidden influence who shapes the agenda for his or her own purposes (Bacharach and Baratz 1962). Huzzard called to our attention the potential for leaders in emergent communities of practice [to] define their situation and construct discourses (p. 356) and suggested a danger of power overriding the value of communities of practice when leaders construct discourses and impose them on the group through individual sensemaking, thus removing the possibility of alternative interpretations or


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options for consideration and action. The janusian power roles in this community of practice, those held by the Sage and the Organizer, reduced the threat of power jeopardizing the efficacy of the community of practice by 1) relying on clarification statements and fostering collaborative discourse within the group and 2) relying on each other as independently influential leaders capable of paradoxically offsetting and strengthening each other s power within the group. The results of this study clarify how influential group members affect situations in which collective sensemaking occurs. By initiating a majority of the conversations in the community of practice, the informal leader controls the topics of discussion and the time spent learning about new concepts. Findings indicate that while some people may influence a community of practice in more active and exerted ways than others, there may be multiple and supporting positions of power and influence within communities of practice. Findings also provide insight into how power influences communication and sensemaking within a community of practice and the direction in which communication proceeds. It is worth noting that the two least formal types of power in French and Ravens (1959) typology emerged within this voluntary peer group. Power based on knowledge, expertise, and modeling behavior (referent power and expert power) emerged as meaningful types of influence among participants. Power associated with providing or withdrawing resources, coercing or punishing participants, and prescribing behavior (reward power, coercive power, and legitimate power) did not emerge. In this longstanding group, participants identified sources of power that both aligned with the nature and values of the group and contributed to the advancement of its goals. It is also interesting that two different profiles of power emerged and coexisted simultaneously as major sources of influence on the groups communication, sensemaking, and success. It appears that, more than merely permitting two seemingly opposing power roles, participants cultivated and relied on both roles as necessary for directing and advancing the community of practice. The most unexpected finding from this study was that one of the two group leaders, the Organizer, was a mid-career, tenure-ineligible faculty member. Other than the main finding of two men holding positions of power in the community of practice, there were no apparent patterns of relative frequency of participation associated with gender. Prior research (Hibbard and Buhrmester 1998; Reevy and Maslach 2001) has indicated that womens participation would be affected by gender role socialization; that is, women would tend to speak less often. However, the number of utterances for men and women in the community of practice were quite similar, ranging from minimal (1.5% for Kim and 2.3% for Fred) to at least 15% of the total group utterances at the meetings they attended (15.3% for Shelley and 20% for Justin). Ethnicity was not a factor of comparison since all of the participants in this case study were White. Additional research on communities of practice is needed to determine how differences in individual member characteristics affect informal power in the group and the learning and sensemaking that occur.

Conclusion This research supports the identified potential for communities of practice to be useful for bringing colleagues together to collaborate on improvement of teaching and learning. By seeking out peers with similar interests and forming voluntary organizations through which to engage in the improvement of teaching and learning, faculty members can cultivate opportunities for rich and fruitful conversation about teaching and learning. In these

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relatively informal settings, traditional power dynamics may give way to collaborative and complementary power roles that, rather than compete for influence, mutually support and advance the goals of the organization. Such a structure may be ideal for autonomous faculty members who are committed to creating opportunities to improve teaching and learning but used to the independent working style traditionally associated with academic careers. It is clear from this research that power roles can be mutually supportive and embraced by participants to advance the mission of the community of practice. Future research would be useful for testing the findings discussed in this article in additional institutional and departmental contexts to explore further the case-specific dynamics and general issues that occur in communities of practice dedicated to improving teaching and learning.

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