The Protege effect: learning from the experience of graduates in an online community of practice

Doctorate other than PhD

van Galen-Dickie, Marianne. 2020. The Protege effect: learning from the experience of graduates in an online community of practice. Doctorate other than PhD Doctor of Professional Studies. University of Southern Queensland.

The Protege effect: learning from the experience of
graduates in an online community of practice

TypeDoctorate other than PhD
Authorvan Galen-Dickie, Marianne
SupervisorCollins, Pauline
Foley, Tony
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Professional Studies
Number of Pages380
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Newly registered migration agents enter an emerging profession that has experienced constant change in educational requirements for practice, and that is contested due to the dual regulation faced by legal practitioners providing immigration assistance and the rise of multiple professional bodies purporting to represent them. These issues are exacerbated by the ability of migration agents to begin practice without supervision .A lack of supervised practice has resulted repeatedly in calls from the government and stakeholders for a mandatory scheme to be implemented. This has proven difficult due to the number of sole practitioners and the high turnover of agents in the profession. These factors have raised concerns regarding the ability of migration agents to develop their professional identity without coherent guidance from the profession. This thesis has examined the effect a Virtual Community of Practice known as Protégé, would have on the professional identity formation of Australian migration agents in sole practice. Protégé was a project that provided a Virtual Community of Practice to thirty newly registered migration agents for one year. It focused on the research question: 'How and to what extent can a virtual community, designed as a supportive workplace, enhance the professional identity of migration agents in sole practice, as determined by their 'own' and others' perceptions of their competence and confidence'. Two sub-questions were also considered: (1) 'What process may be involved in forming an identity as a professional migration agent?', and (2) 'How have the experiences in Protégé enhanced/influenced participants' perceptions and development of their professional identity'? This thesis presents three findings and four theoretical concepts that underpin those findings. This study is based on the interviews and site interactions of eighteen protégés who took part in the broader research project. By adopting a Constructivist Grounded Theory approach (Charmaz, 2006), the findings expose how migration agentsadopt a professional identity, the struggles newly registered agents encounter, and the strategies they use to achieve their professional goals. Importantly this thesis articulates the design features of Protégé that led to its success. The design included conditions identified by Eraut (2004a, 2004b, 2007, 2010)as those belonging to a supportive workplace. Their inclusion into the design of Protégé created new ways of viewing the structure and effect of Virtual Communities of Practice. The findings and theoretical concepts presented in this thesis extend theories of professional identity formation and the role a Virtual Community of Practice can play in enhancing this process. Together they reveal how Protégé provided a means for early career migration agents to recognise and adopt the values and ethics that belong to the broader profession and to actualise their professional identity. They demonstrate that supervised practice does not have to follow traditional methods, such as working within an established business, and they highlight the role working with peers and more knowledgeable professionals can play in developing professional identity and an understanding of the broader professional landscape that an early career practitioner works within. The recommendations from this thesis provide guidance for professional bodies representing migration agents. They are also applicable to emerging professions seeking to create virtual supportive spaces for their members to learn their practice, values and professional mores together.

Keywordsmigration, agents, identity, profession, virtual, CoP
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020460609. Networking and communications
460806. Human-computer interaction
480310. Public international law
480405. Law and society and socio-legal research
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Law and Justice
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