A Community of Practice: Crafts Persons' Learning in Old Bedford Village

Open Access
Fickes, Patricia Diane
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 25, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Fred Michael Schied, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Fred Michael Schied, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Gary Kuhne, Committee Member
  • Jeffrey Cash Bridger, Special Member
  • John David Popp, Committee Member
  • Community of practice
  • Ethnography
  • Adult education - Informal
  • Cultural heritage preservation
  • Fundamental learning dualities
ABSTRACT Community of practice provided the theoretical frame to study the Old Bedford Village crafts persons as they reproduced lifestyles of a Southern Alleghenies rural village from 200 to 300 years ago in early America. This study sought the ‘how’ and ‘why’ Old Bedford Village crafts persons engaged in learning processes as traditional knowledge and tools disappeared with time. The overall practiced craft from this community of practice consisted of historical reenactments using the traditional trades and tasks as mediums to explain these former lifestyles. Learning processes were examined to generate data from four areas: 1) skills development from participation in practiced activities and reification indicators, 2) informal learning practices and outcomes, 3) the importance of tools, machines, and resources, and 4) local voices to carry out opportunities for cultural heritage preservation. Conventional ethnography permitted engagement in hands-on activities and allowed for the observations of activities and craft-related processes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 Village crafts persons. Old Bedford Village archives and newspaper articles supplied secondary data source information. QSR International’s NVivo 9 qualitative data analysis software was used to analyze data from interview transcripts and observation field notes. Findings held mixed support for the community of practice concepts. Data patterns and generated themes addressed this study’s research questions. Implications provided insights for communities of practice ahistorical limits, power and boundary management, including expanded informal learning opportunities, and opportunities for learning in changing and evolving cultures and societies.