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Exploring Interagency Collaboration in a Secondary Transition Community of Practice Open Access

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This study examined how interagency collaboration occurs within one local transition community of practice using Wenger's (1998) social theory of learning. While postschool outcomes of youth with disabilities have improved moderately, there continue to be many barriers based upon changes in American society, including the diversity of the population, family structures, legislation, policy, and practice (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, Knokey, & Shaver, 2010). This situation occurs despite legislative mandates for multiple public agencies to provide "transition services" (IDEA, 2004). Studies show that fragmentation and duplication of supports and services negatively impact the outcomes of youth with disabilities (National Council on Disability, 2008), and research in the field of secondary transition over 30 years has identified the importance of interagency collaboration (Kochhar-Bryant, 2008). Research has shown that communities of practice--based on the social theory of learning, wherein participants collaborate to cross boundaries and solve complex issues (Snyder, Wenger, & Briggs, 2003)-- are a context for effective collaboration (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).A qualitative, exploratory study was used to answer the research question: How do the four components of Wenger's (1998) social theory of learning act as the mechanisms for interagency collaboration in one local transition community of practice? These components are learning as doing (practice), learning as experience (meaning), learning as belonging (community), and learning as becoming (identity); the cyclical, iterative exchanges between the components create the dynamic of learning by collaborators. The unit of analysis was a unique case called the Local County Transition Coordinating Council, a local community of practice in the Mid-Atlantic region. The data of this study strongly support and describe the role of the four components of the social theory of learning as mechanisms for interagency collaboration in this one local transition community of practice, as well as the iterative exchange creating the dynamic of learning. Two emerging codes also acted as mechanisms for interagency collaboration, adaptation/change and leadership. Further research to explore the role of the social theory of learning through communities of practice as a context for interagency collaboration within secondary transition is warranted based on the findings of this study.

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