Pedagogies and learning in cooperative and symbolic communities of practice: Implications for and from the education of Australian show people


Groups and organisations are not automatically sites of effective and transformative pedagogy and learning; such outcomes are most likely to occur when entities become communities of practice (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder 2002). One conception of community focused explicitly on the facilitation of pedagogy and learning is cooperative community, centred on five principles (Johnson & Johnson 1998). Another productive notion of community is as a symbolic construction, centred on members' shared consciousness and boundary maintenance (Cohen 1985).

One community that demonstrates the pedagogical and learning potential of cooperative and symbolic communities of practice is the Australian show people (Danaher 1998, 2001). Following generations of educational marginalisation, this community participated in a specialised program within the Brisbane School of Distance Education between 1989 and 1999, and since 2000 its members have benefited from having their own Queensland School for Travelling Show Children, established under Education Queensland's auspices.

This paper maps and portrays enactments of the cooperative and symbolic communities of practice in the school and on the show circuits. It identifies specific strategies that underpin the pedagogies and learning made possible in those communities of practice, and it considers possible implications of such pedagogies and learning for other educational contexts and groups.


Beverley Moriarty
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Education, Central Queensland University, Australia

Patrick Alan Danaher
Faculty of Education, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba QLD

Geoff Danaher
Division of Teaching and Learning Services, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton QLD


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communities of practice; cooperative community; educational marginalisation


PP: 047 - 056

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