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Copy of Communities_of_Practice

Page history last edited by Abida Merchant 9 years, 5 months ago

Communities of Practice

     The term "Community of Practice" is a relatively recent coinage even though the phenomenon it refers to is age-old. The concept has turned out to provide a useful perspective in knowing and learning. A growing number of people and organization in various sectors are now focusing on communities of practice as key to improving their performance.----------Wenger,2006.


     In layman's terms, "Community of Practice" means a group of people who come together to interact and learn from each other. This does not necessarily make them subject matter experts or know more than non-members. It only means they have a common interest and a willingness to share their knowledge or experience. They have a passion for their interest/subject a desire to become to do it better and they interact regularly for this very purpose with its other members.


     According to Wenger, the old traditional way of thinking about the learning theory comes from the assumption that it is something with a beginning and a end and has to be taught by somebody in an isolated teaching environment. Community of practice is a more modern way of thinking about the learning theory, which emphasizes that learning is a social process and that majority of our learning happens through the experience of living our daily life. Jean Lava and Etienne Wenger proposed this theory and called it the model of 'situated learning'. Communities of practice can be anywhere and everywhere, at work, school, home or in any hobbies/interests. At any given time all of us are involved in a number of them. We are the core members of some of these groups whereas on the outskirts of others.






     There are three important characteristics that makes a community a "community of practice." Developing them in parallel lines cultivates community of practice.


1) Domain: A shared domain of interest, without this it is merely a friendship club or a network of connection. Being a member implies a commitment to the domain and know how of the subject. This sets the member apart from the other people.


2) Community: The domain characteristic is further expanded when the shared interest in their domain encourages the members to engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other and share information. Having the same job or sharing the same title does not make a community, it only becomes a community when members can interact and learn together and from each other.


3) Practice:  Just a single interaction or contributing to a knowledge bank does not make a community of practice. As the word suggests it is a lot of practice, which means time and sustained interaction are the key factors.


How do these communities develop their practice?


They do so through a variety of activities such as:


Problem Solving
"I am stuck with this problem, can we brainstorm a solution?"
Request for Information
"I am looking for a good math program, does anybody know of one?"
Seeking Experience
"I have a student with severe learning disability, had anybody had a similar situation?"
Reusing Assets
"I came up with a strategy to control the cheating problem with my students, you can easily tweak it a little to help with your situation."
Co-ordination and Synergy
"Maybe we can combine our purchases of smart board and get bulk discounts."
Discussing Developments
"What do you think of the new NCLB act?
Documentation of Projects
" We have had this similar kind of problem quite a few times, lets document the solution."
" Can I come observe your class when they are working in the garden, we would like to do something similar?"
Mapping Knowledge and Identifying Gaps "Who knows what and what are we missing? What other groups should we connect with?"



What are they known as and where are they applied?


They are known by various names such as learning networks, thematic groups or tech clubs. Communities of practice are being practically applied in business, organizational design, government, education, professional associations, development projects, and civic life.














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