Online communities of practice as a strategy for staff involvement in SWITCH
Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP) target physical activity behaviors through the recommended “whole-of-school” approach which recommends staff from all areas of school should be involved in health promotion. The component of Staff Involvement is highly effective at improving student health behaviors; however, descriptive research in this area is limited. One program that focuses on supporting school staff to lead school wellness programing is SWITCH. It is recommended that school staff should be given opportunities for professional development that are ongoing and collaborative, and online communities of practice (CoP) have been shown to support staff in this way. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis is to examine the usefulness and feasibility of an online CoP as a resource for staff involvement in SWITCH.
An online CoP was developed for school staff, extension members and the SWITCH team to interact and share resources and best practices. The sample consisted of 70 school staff and members of extension, ages 18-69, with the majority being classroom teachers (32.9%) and extension members (21.4%). Feasibility and usefulness of the CoP was measured with number of posts and comments (ning platform throughout the 12 weeks of SWITCH implementation); page views and average time of visits (Google Analytics throughout implementation); perceived value, support, sense of belonging and perceived barriers (Qualtrics survey upon completion of implementation); and self-reported use and importance (checkpoint survey midway and satisfaction survey upon completion of implementation).
Descriptive statistics were used for all variables and correlations for intention, value, belonging, support, and obstacles
Overall visits and average time spent per visit was high with 620 total sessions, 4.67 pages viewed per session, and 3.3 minutes average session duration. Thirty-seven percent of members showed somewhat to high engagement. The CoP was perceived as highly valued and interesting (M=4.32 on a 5-point scale). Members perceived a sense of belonging (M=4.09 on a 5-point scale) and reported intentions to use it in the future (79.1%). Intention to continue to use the CoP was significantly correlated with sense of belonging (especially with trust from the SWITCH team), as well as value and interest in the CoP and perceived support. Perceived obstacles for using the CoP were overall low (M=1.94 on a 4-point scale) with the highest obstacles relating to effort, usability, and self-competence. Significant negative correlations existed between all obstacles and support, belonging, value and interest, similarity, and trust.
This thesis supports the usefulness and feasibility of an online CoP as a tool for SWITCH programming. Members perceived it as valuable and important, and overall obstacles were low. Communities of practice are viewed as a tool to support teachers and provide ongoing collaborative learning opportunities. The present thesis supports the use of online communities of practice in the implementation of SWITCH and their potential as a tool for staff involvement in CSPAP programming.