Teague's Tech Treks

Learning Technology and other Tech Observations by Dr. Helen Teague


Communities of Practice: Key Words

Communities of Practice:

Key words: created over time by the sustained pursuit of a shared enterprise
Wenger, 1998


Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope. In a nutshell: Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. (Wenger circa 2007)



Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991: 108-9) comment, ‘the purpose is not to learn from talk as a substitute for legitimate peripheral participation; it is to learn to talk as a key to legitimate peripheral participation’. This orientation has the definite advantage of drawing attention to the need to understand knowledge and learning in context. However, situated learning depends on:

  • connecting concepts to other areas of influence and importance
  • create something new from the internal locus of the CoP


Smith, M. K. (2003, 2009) ‘Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice’, the encyclopedia of informal education, http://infed.org/mobi/jean-lave-etienne-wenger-and-communities-of-practice/

Wenger, Etienne (1998) ‘Communities of Practice. Learning as a social system’, Systems Thinker, http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/lss.shtml.

Wenger, Etienne (c 2007) ‘Communities of practice. A brief introduction’. Communities of practice [http://www.ewenger.com/theory/

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