Communities of Knowledge and Practice

As an association, ASTC places a high priority on providing quality professional development services to its members—from online training programs and publications, to networking and consulting, to an annual conference that serves to inform, educate, and inspire. The ASTC leadership and field development committee has been busy assisting the association to establish and implement a comprehensive plan of professional skills enhancement for our diverse membership.

As we examine our members’ professional development needs, we learn very quickly that our science center and museum field is filled with excellent examples of creative and efficient practices. I have found that ASTC can have perhaps the greatest impact when we identify and expand upon that which makes us succeed as a field.

Fortunately, our field is remarkably generous with sharing its successes. In fact, some institutions are already exchanging information on their best practices through the Teacher Educator Network, the Youth Program Network, and other groups.

So how can we ensure that these practices achieve the widest possible distribution among our many members? We at ASTC plan to organize association-wide “communities of knowledge and practice” with precisely this objective in mind. With the support of the ASTC leadership and field development committee, we will begin work on convening these communities in mid–2011.

We envision these communities to take several forms. Through facilitated online programs, open exchanges using social media tools, key articles in ASTC publications, planned sessions and tracks at conference, and more, we are planning a more purposeful effort to share the experiences of our field. I anticipate that these communities might embrace at least three levels of information exchange for members.

First, we would like to expand the communities that already exist around topics like youth development programs, teacher training, and facilitated community dialogues. Second, we will certainly form communities of practice around essential science center operations, including exhibit design, education, floor management, and volunteerism. Third, I look forward to the establishment of communities designed to explore collectively those topics and practices that still lie over the horizon. It will be important to engage our diverse membership broadly in these strategic discussions.

One of the most challenging, yet interesting, elements of what we do as an association is to try to bring the very best of our field to the very largest component of our membership. I believe that we can best achieve this goal by working diligently to identify and share all of the wisdom and experience that have already made our member institutions so valuable within their communities. My thanks to all of you for your great work and for your contributions to ASTC’s professional development agenda.