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Background Teacher communities of practice, identity, and self-efficacy have been proposed to influence positive teacher outcomes in retention, suggesting all three may be related constructs. Qualitative studies of communities of practice can be difficult to empirically link to identity and self-efficacy in larger samples. In this study, we operationalized teacher communities of practice as specific networks related to teaching content and/or pedagogy. This scalable approach allowed us to quantitatively describe communities of practice and explore statistical relationships with other teacher characteristics. We asked whether these community of practice networks were related to identity and self-efficacy, similar to other conceptualizations of communities of practice. Results We analyzed survey data from 165 in-service K-12 teachers prepared in science or mathematics at 5 university sites across the USA. Descriptive statistics and exploratory factor analyses indicated that math teachers consistently reported smaller communities of practice and lower identity and self-efficacy scores. Correlations revealed that communities of practice are more strongly and positively related to identity than self-efficacy. Conclusion We demonstrate that teacher communities of practice can be described as networks. These community of practice networks are correlated with teacher identity and self-efficacy, similar to published qualitative descriptions of communities of practice. Community of practice networks are therefore a useful research tool for evaluating teacher characteristics such as discipline, identity, self-efficacy, and other possible outcomes (e.g., retention). These findings suggest that teacher educators aiming to foster strong teacher identities could develop pre-service experiences within an explicit, energizing community of practice.

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International Journal of STEM Education