Systems of Practice: How Leaders Use Artifacts to Create Professional Community in Schools


  • Richard R. Halverson University of Wisconsin - Madison



Teacher Leadership, Community Development, Social Capital


This article explores how local school leaders construct the conditions for professional community in their schools. This paper argues that professional community is a special form of social capital that results, in part, from the design and implementation of facilitating structural networks by instructional leaders in schools. The structural aspects of a school community can be conceived as a system of practice, that is, a network of structures, tasks and traditions that create and facilitate complex webs of practice in organizations. Systems of practice are composed of networks of artifacts, such as policies, programs and procedures, which can be seen as powerful tools used by local leaders to influence local instructional practices. The system of practice framework suggests that leaders use artifacts to establish structures that facilitate the closure of professional networks among teachers, which in turns builds professional community. The leadership practices of an urban elementary school are used to illustrate how professional community has been developed through the selective design and implementation of artifacts in order to reshape the local system of practice.


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Author Biography

Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Richard Halverson is an Assistant Professor in Educational Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work aims to bring the research methods and practices of the learning sciences to the world of educational leadership. His research focuses on the ways in which people access, learn and teach sophisticated, situated practices such as school leadership. He builds on-line, multimedia technologies to access and document successful school leadership practice, and to develop ideas that can capture the complexity, expertise and situated nature of leadership practice. His recent research interests involve the representation of leadership practices in developing professional community in schools, understanding how local school leaders make sense of and implement teacher-evaluation systems, and representing the ways in which leaders move beyond inclusion to improve learn for all students in their schools.




How to Cite

Halverson, R. R. (2003). Systems of Practice: How Leaders Use Artifacts to Create Professional Community in Schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11, 37.