Emerging from the third space chrysalis: Experiences in a non-hierarchical, collaborative research community of practice


  • Ed Bickle Bournemouth University, United Kingdom
  • Silvina Bishopp-Martin Canterbury Christ Church University, United Kingdom
  • Ursula Canton Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Paul Chin University of Bath, United Kingdom
  • Ian Johnson University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom
  • Ralitsa Kantcheva Bangor University, Wales, United Kingdom
  • Jane Nodder Northern College of Acupuncture, York, United Kingdom
  • Victoria Rafferty University of Sunderland, United Kingdom
  • Kiu Sum University of Westminster, United Kingdom
  • Karen Welton Plymouth College of Art, United Kingdom


Third space, professional identity, professional culture, virtual community of practice, learning development


This article discusses the creation of a research-focused virtual community of practice (vCoP) for geographically-dispersed third space professionals, motivated by desires for enhanced professional collaboration, visibility and identity. The authors used collaborative autoethnography (CAE) to evaluate their personal reflections as vCoP participants. Data were gathered in two collaborative writing activities and analysed using thematic analysis (TA). The TA identified two connected themes, which capture the vCoP members’ aspirations to transcend their current roles and be research-active through connecting with like-minded professionals. Collaborative writing activities, including authoring this paper, cultivated elements of academic identity such as independence and purpose. A non-hierarchical and supportive vCoP environment allowed the members to work beyond time and institutional constraints to foster the evolution of the community and an emerging sense of professional identity beyond that typically associated with third space roles. The paper offers a model of collaboration that could help groups in similar situations.


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How to Cite

Emerging from the third space chrysalis: Experiences in a non-hierarchical, collaborative research community of practice. (2021). Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 18(7), 135-158. https://open-publishing.org/journals/index.php/jutlp/article/view/524