Transition and Community of Practice (CoP)

Robert Kielty talks about student transition and the importance of community, identity and practice.

Two things I learned very early as a student teacher at the Scottish School of Physical Education was the importance of being connected and earning the respect of your peers and staff. Thankfully 25 years later – these factors are still highly relevant in education and continue to frame my approach to teaching and learning in the area of transition.

To refresh, part of this university’s mission is to develop effective institutional responses to support students make the transition into, through and out of GCU with a specific focus on entrepreneurial and employability transition skills.

Student transition is always a major factor in the recruitment and retention of programmes within Higher Education and thus a strong transitional portfolio for the BA (HONS) International Sports Management is one of my main objectives as Programme Leader for this new degree. As a relatively small programme, it is critical that we hold onto our cohort and develop their employability skills in excess of other rivals. There is no time like the present and I started this by creating, contacting and organising a Community of Practice (CoP) in applied sporting settings where I have a network and where the work by Lave and Wenger (1991; 1993; 2003) provides a strong theoretical underpinning, particularly the importance of factors such as domain, community ,identity and practice.

These settings have been embedded into the Year 1 Sports Development assessment which formally requires students to present both a development plan and concept rationale for their project. The in-situ (practice) element exposes students to employability skills in every project (e.g. leading, coaching, instructing, and planning, delegating, evaluating, networking)

The community’s portfolio currently includes an international teaching exchange scheduled for 2016, a school festival, college students connecting into module seminars and a community sport internship.

Students as coaching mentors

Students as coaching mentors

A CoP organises around some particular area of knowledge and activity that give members a sense of joint enterprise and identity. For a CoP to function it needs to generate and appropriate a shared repertoire of ideas, commitments and memories (Wenger 2003). It also needs to develop various resources such as tools, documents, routines, vocabulary and symbols that in some way carry the accumulated knowledge of the community. In other words, it involves practice – ways of doing and approaching things that are shared to some significant extent among members.

RK Blog post 1

The transitional value of this first community of practice is already evident:-

  • Two students are now employed as hockey coaches at Jordanhill School. Another is employed as their secondary school football coach
  • I have been appointed onto the board at Royston Youth Action as they go towards community sports hub status
  • College students volunteering as sports mentors with forthcoming Caledonian Club S5 & S6 Sport & Events Project
  • 2 student intern positions with Royston Youth Action
Student coaching secondary school football

Student coaching school football

One of the key characteristics is that projects belong to the International Sports Management programme – WE have created or developed them from inception – this means that OUR students are empowered into volunteering and teaching in communities that WE created – this provides rich transitional experiences which correlate to employment opportunities.

It remains a work in progress but a reunion in the summer of 2014 attended by many of our successful and happy Sport Alumni was evidence of the power of this teaching and learning approach.

Robert Kielty

Robert is a qualified teacher and UEFA coach who has helped 8 different European professional clubs achieve success. He is head of football science at the Fife Elite Football Academy and acts as a player mentor on the SPFA/ FIFPRO education programme. His applied work in Football has included the successful transition into professional careers of more than 100 young players. Before entering academia, Robert was managing director of a company that introduced specialised paediatric sports programmes into UK Leisure trusts.

Now Programme Leader of the BA (HONS) International Sports Management, his research interests include elite sports performance and models of sports internship development.


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