Building a community of practice for engaging pharmacy students to learn in a collaborative research environment

Amr ElShaer, Gianpiero Calabrese, Diogo Casanova, Isabel Huet

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Background Conventional research project supervision is not always compatible with current challenges facing higher education, such as students’ diverse backgrounds, increasing demands, and multidisciplinary research interests. Additionally, research students may experience isolation at different stages of research. To help students coping with these challenges, approaches such as progress reports, departmental presentations, and co-supervision have been introduced. Community of practices (CoP) are alternative approaches that if successfully adopted may improve the students’ learning experience. These communities were developed as knowledge-based social structures between groups of people sharing goals and interests. Considering the importance of CoPs as a strategy to engage students and researchers to work collaboratively; this study aims to investigate the impact of a formal CoP on the students’ learning experience at different levels of study. Methods Six months qualitative evaluation study. Participants included two PhD, five Master, and two undergraduate students (level 6) from the School of Pharmacy at a British University. Participants were asked to interact face-to-face and online using Diigo as a virtual learning environment to share and discuss problems and questions related to their on-going work, including the finding of research articles. Qualitative data were gathered from two focus groups and an in-depth thematic analysis of the online interactions was carried out. Results All participants at undergraduate and Master level felt that their learning experience was boosted by the sharing of knowledge and resources. Closer look at the data reveal that most of the production and interactions were made by the largest group (i.e., Master students). This group believed that Diigo helped them in building up their research knowledge by sharing information online, which also enriched their face-to-face (f2f) discussions. In contrast, PhD students felt that the CoP did not significantly help them to develop their knowledge. Conclusions The development of a small CoP helps students to gain knowledge and improves their research productivity by sharing experience and skills. The CoP was effectively supported by Diigo, which provided a good platform for data’ sharing and a culture of collaboration. The CoP had an overall positive impact on the students’ learning experience and research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)698-707
    Number of pages10
    JournalCurrents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning
    Issue number5
    Early online date19 Jul 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


    • Community of Practice
    • Diigo
    • Online bookmarking
    • Pharmacy teaching and learning
    • Research supervision


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