Communities of Practice

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Additional resources for Recruiting and Retaining TeachersConceptual picture of a group of people shown as outlines, gathered together.

October 2010
Updated, May 2013


We didn’t all come over on the same ship,
but we’re all in the same boat.
—Barnard Baruch


Has the time come to consider the merits of forming or joining a community of practice? CoP, for short. These are proliferating to improve professional practice across the spectrum of professions–groups of people with a common concern who unite to discuss, decide, and pool what they know. Typically, these exchanges take place online. More often than not, any given CoP will also compile a library of resources that members can tap into and use in their own locale.

This page on CoPs looks specifically at CoPs that have formed to improve special education practice and services to children with disabilities. We’ve divided the discussion and resource lists into two primary parts, as described below. Pick your poison!


What’s the Buzz about CoPs?

Find materials that explain what CoPs in general are and what they hope to achieve, as well as materials you can use to develop, guide, or strengthen your own community.

Communities of practice:  A brief introduction.

CoPs: Activities sponsored by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).
This synthesis brief introduces the concept of CoPs, describes how CoPs are currently supported by OSEP at the state and national levels as a technical assistance (TA) strategy, and offers guidance to decisionmakers who are interested in forming their own state- or local-level CoP.

The IDEA Partnership’s page on CoPs.

Great resources on CoPs from the CDC.
CDC is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its CoP landing page branches off into separate resource pages, including an introduction to CoPs, how to launch and sustain a CoP, how to evaluate your CoP, a glossary, references, and resources. Well worth visiting for the fundamentals!

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CoPs You Can Join

Perhaps you’re looking for a community that’s already working on a topic or challenge of great interest to you.  Is there one out there on your topic? Here’s a quick list of what’s up-and-running.

Tacommunities: 10 and counting.
TAcommunities is the home for CoPs that are supported by the Technical Assistance and Dissemination (TA&D) Network and OSEP. TAcommunities provide resources and TA to states on issues that impact students with disabilities. There are currently 12 CoPs. The one’s most relevant to teachers is probably the CoP on Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) – Part B, which focuses on strategies for improving access to and engagement in the general education curriculum and inclusionary practices, inside and outside of the classroom.  Read all about these communities and join in the sharing at:

The IDEA Partnership’s CoPs.
These CoPs are focused on advancing policy and practice in four key areas:

–the intersections of NCLB and IDEA;
–school behavioral health services;
–interagency transition, and
–teacher quality (both general and special educators).

To that end, the Partnership has organized numerous CoPs that are worth delving into. Read all about what CoPs are available at:

Early Childhood Community.

Teacher-to-Teacher Forum of the National Association of Special Education Teachers.

Beach Center on Disability’s Family Support CoP.

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Would you like to visit another resource page in the Recruiting and Retaining Teachers series?

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