Establishing communities of practice

Key guidelines for establishing a community of practice, highlighting the success of Curriculum Reform Communities in particular.

Leaders of curriculum need to leverage expertise and insights to support curriculum reform across their network, so curriculum implementation is seen as an iterative journey, rather than a single event. Establishing communities of practice is an effective way to build collective efficacy across schools and ensure learning is transferred into practice (Donohoo J, Hattie J, & Eells, R (2018) ‘The Power of Collective Efficacy’, Educational Leadership, 75(6), 40.)

What is a community of practice?

Communities of practice operate across NSW public schools in a wide range of configurations and contexts. The most successful and sustainable communities of practice are characterised by both solidity and solidarity, drawing on expert knowledge and collaborative professionalism (Hargreaves, A and O’Connor, MT (2018) ‘Solidarity with solidity: The case for collaborative professionalism’, Phi Delta Kappan, 100(1), 20-24).

They can be referred to in many ways, including:

  • curriculum or education networks
  • community of schools
  • learning circles
  • education clusters.

Effective communities of practice benefit members through:

  • regular collaboration and support for problems of practice
  • sharing of expertise and evidence-informed resources to build collective efficacy
  • professional learning and leadership opportunities.

Developing effective communities of practice

Guidelines and considerations when developing effective communities of practice:

  • Collaboratively establish and communicate the vision, values, and culture:
    • Vision statement
    • Transparent decision-making and shared responsibility
    • Professional, collegial relationships built on trust
  • Develop governance structures
    • Clear governance guidelines and defined roles and responsibilities
    • Induction processes for new members
    • Consistent messaging; agendas, and action plans aligned to vision
    • Support of principals across schools
  • Embed quality professional learning opportunities
    • Leveraging expertise within and external to the group
    • Quality evidence-informed resources
    • Regular collaboration
  • Ensure sustainability of the communities of practice
    • Regular communication channels
    • Succession planning for all roles
    • Embedding mentoring opportunities
  • Evaluate the impact of communities of practice
    • Evidence of effectiveness (process and outcome evaluation)
    • Participant feedback and changes in practice

Curriculum Reform Communities (CRC)

CRC support schools with the implementation of new syllabuses and the development of school contextualised curriculum. CRC:

  • share information about the curriculum reform process and provide support materials
  • build capability of teachers to lead curriculum change
  • provide a vehicle for curriculum collaboration within and between schools

Many CRC include Accelerated Adopter and Self-Select schools, and thus represent existing networks where educators can learn from and leverage the experiences of these schools in relation to effective curriculum implementation. The CRC embody the key guidelines of effective communities of practice and are an established avenue for schools looking to establish communities related to curriculum reform.

To join a CRC or nominate a school coordinator, visit Curriculum Reform Communities.


Curriculum networks – Leading contains resources to support schools in establishing and leading communities of practice, including:

Additional information outlining what educators and academics have concluded about the validity of curriculum networks can be accessed on Curriculum networks – Researching.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
Return to top of page Back to top