Teacher Participation in Online Communities: Why Do Teachers Want to Participate in Self-generated Online Communities of K-12 Teachers?

Spring 2009

Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education Volume 41, Issue 3; p. 279-303,(Spring 2009)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of the study was to examine reasons for teacher participation in online communities of K-12 teachers. The following research question guided this study: Why do teachers want to participate in self-generated online communities of teachers?

Theoretical Frameworks

The online communities of teachers that this study explores are communities of practice in online environments.

Communities of Practice
Communities of practice are groups of practitioners who share knowledge, concerns, and values within a supportive culture (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Wenger (1998) proposes that such communities entail mutual engagement of members around a joint enterprise. Members share repertoires of tools, stories, routines, and words that the community has generated or developed; the repertoire becomes a part of the community's practice.


23 teachers from three self-generated online communities participated in the study. Six were male and seventeen were female. In terms of years of teaching experience, ten teachers had 1-5 years of teaching experience, and five teachers had 6-10 years of experience.
Two teachers had 11-20 years of experience, and six teachers had more than 20 years of experience. In terms of school level, ten teachers from elementary schools, seven teachers from junior high schools, and six teachers from high schools participated.

The authors analyzed more than 2,000 postings in those communities. The findings indicated five reasons for participation: (a) sharing emotions, (b) utilizing the advantages of online environments, (c) combating teacher isolation, (d) exploring ideas, and (e) experiencing a sense of camaraderie. In conclusion, the findings imply that when designing teacher professional development programs, more emphasis needs to be placed on teachers' emotional sharing and promotion of self-esteem.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Updated: May. 21, 2009