First Advisor

McConnell, Christine

First Committee Member

Harding-Middleton, Jennifer

Second Committee Member

Erekson, James

Third Committee Member

Bailey, Stacy

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Document Type


Date Created



College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Teacher Education, Teacher Education Student Work


Beckwith, Rachel James. Community of practice as a path to an authentic emancipatory education. Published Doctor of Education dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, 2024. Emphasized in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is belonging. It is identified as one of the most inherent human needs; we cannot survive without connection, without belonging. Yet our society seems to reject community values in lieu of rugged individualism. This hyper-fixation on liberty at the expense of social responsibility has not been without its consequences. Classrooms have been a prime breeding spot for the battle between “us” and “them;” the heavy emphasis on grades, contests, and rewards fueled this trend, and competition has commonly been regarded as a motivator. I aimed to challenge this norm with the following study. The qualitative methodology of Auto-Educational Criticism framed my research. The primary purpose of the study was to illuminate the experiences of students working interdependently in a Community of Practice (CoP) towards an authentic, emancipatory education. My research addressed the following questions: (a) How is an interdependent community of practice co-created between students and teacher in a middle level ELA classroom?; (b) How do middle school students describe their experiences in an interdependent community of practice?; (c) What are the general implications of the shared creation and implementation of interdependent community of practice for middle school students and teachers?; and (d) How might an examination of my teaching practices reveal a relationship between my professional identity and my personal identity? A combination of observations, audio recordings, interviews, and journal entries provided a wealth of data to support my conclusions. Multiple findings were revealed: (a) Communities of practice at the middle level should respect adolescent development; (b) Many of the participants pointed to behavioral dysregulation as the most frustrating and limiting experience of working in a community of practice; and (c) The disconnect between expected and actualized group interaction indicated a need for explicit instruction in academic discourse. Further, attempts to balance the power in the classroom tested my determination and, at times, left me at a psychological impasse. This study, which sought to understand the general implications of a de-centered, cooperative classroom on teaching and learning, could potentially influence how educators approach small group work and classroom discourse.

Abstract Format





247 pages

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