File Name: wenger communities of practice learning meaning and identity .zip
Although it had been twelve years since Robert DeClercq had last laid eyes on him, the Russian had changed little. His hair was still almost albino white and luxurious, combed back in a pompadour.
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Metrics details. In the experience of health professionals, it appears that interacting with peers in the workplace fosters learning and information sharing. Informal groups and networks present good opportunities for information exchange.
Communities of practice CoPs , which have been described by Wenger and others as a type of informal learning organization, have received increasing attention in the health care sector; however, the lack of uniform operating definitions of CoPs has resulted in considerable variation in the structure and function of these groups, making it difficult to evaluate their effectiveness.
To critique the evolution of the CoP concept as based on the germinal work by Wenger and colleagues published between and CoP was originally developed to provide a template for examining the learning that happens among practitioners in a social environment, but over the years there have been important divergences in the focus of the concept. Lave and Wenger's earliest publication centred on the interactions between novices and experts, and the process by which newcomers create a professional identity.
In the book, the focus had shifted to personal growth and the trajectory of individuals' participation within a group i. The focus then changed again in when CoP was applied as a managerial tool for improving an organization's competitiveness. The different interpretations of CoP make it challenging to apply the concept or to take full advantage of the benefits that CoP groups may offer. The tension between satisfying individuals' needs for personal growth and empowerment versus an organization's bottom line is perhaps the most contentious of the issues that make CoPs difficult to cultivate.
Interventions that facilitate relationship building among members and that promote knowledge exchange may be useful for optimizing the function of these groups. Peer Review reports. A major challenge to integrating evidence into practice is that it involves a complex process of acquiring and converting both explicit and tacit knowledge into clinical activities.
Explicit knowledge is codified information such as peer-reviewed articles, rules, and guidelines, which can be readily shared among people. However, to apply this knowledge in practice, practitioners must make sense of the concrete information in the context in which it is used.
This process of establishing meaning can be facilitated by discussions with colleagues and mentors or by observing how others apply the knowledge and then try it themselves [ 1 — 4 ]. As a result, we see a growing number of informal groups and networks that create opportunities for knowledge exchange. Communities of practice[ 5 , 6 ] CoPs the concept itself is referred to as 'community of practice' , which have been described as a type of informal learning organization, are gaining popularity in the health sector [ 7 — 10 ].
A recent October Google search on the exact phrase Health ' Communities of Practice ' yielded over , hits. CoPs have been used in the education and business sectors for over 20 years[ 5 ], but their use in the health care field has been limited and their structures are generally inconsistent. Some of these groups resemble informal networks, where the goal and structure of the group tend to be loosely defined[ 5 ], and others are similar to support groups, where the main goal is to enhance self-efficacy[ 11 ].
Some researchers even argue that a CoP is analogous to a well-run network[ 12 ] or a multidisciplinary team[ 13 ]. The lack of consistency in the interpretation of the CoP concept makes it difficult to describe, develop, and measure the effectiveness of a CoP. In this paper, we discuss CoPs in the context of learning communities. We trace and explain the evolution of Wenger's CoP concept and illustrate the challenges of applying the concept given the divergences of its central focus.
Our goal is to indentify promising directions to advance the use of the CoP concept in the health care setting. This work was conducted within a large research synthesis project that aimed to examine how CoPs were defined and used in the business and health sectors, and to evaluate evidence for the effectiveness of CoPs in the health sector in improving the uptake of best practices.
The methodology and findings of the research synthesis are reported elsewhere[ 14 ] and are summarised in Table 1. The current paper focuses on the authors' interpretations of Wenger's germinal work and recommendations for future research to advance the understanding and use of the CoP concept.
We first came across Wenger's work when one of the authors LL searched the literature on knowledge translation and implementation and found an article in Harvard Business Review that described the use of CoP as a tool that could improve an organization's capacity to develop and share new knowledge[ 15 ].
Intrigued by the concept of CoP, we subsequently studied Wenger's major publications:. Lave and Wenger Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation [ 16 ].
Wenger Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity [ 17 ]. Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder Cultivating Communities of Practice [ 5 ]. CoPs are considered to be a type of learning community[ 5 , 16 , 17 ]. In order to understand the CoP concept we must therefore first define 'community' and 'learning community. A community can exist over time despite a change of participants. It develops its own culture and communication methods as it matures[ 18 ].
Social learning theorists suggest that communities provide a foundation for sharing knowledge. It is believed that individuals can learn by observing and modelling other people. Bandura[ 19 ] emphasizes that observing other people's behaviour allows for a safer and more efficient way of acquiring complex behaviours or skills than learning by trial and error.
Social constructivists, such as Cobb and colleagues[ 20 , 21 ], understand learning as an individual's responsibility and the community is the means by which people learn. Communities provide a safe environment for individuals to engage in learning through observation and interaction with experts and through discussion with colleagues. The term 'learning community' became popular among educators in the s [ 22 ]. Graves emphasized the importance of social relationships between experts and learners, and the new roles assumed by all players[ 22 ].
For example, teachers were encouraged to step back from their usual role of expert, and to act instead as facilitators and co-participants who can display ignorance as well as knowledge. The equalization of roles between teachers and learners in a community often maximises the participation of everyone, but may also create a sense of discomfort and insecurity.
Tension can arise among learners who are expected to work collaboratively, but are often evaluated individually, and thus competitively, on their performance and their ability to master the knowledge acquired. Some people may perceive these new roles as risky and uncomfortable, which may subsequently lead to less engagement. A learning community must therefore develop a high level of trust among participants in order to be functional[ 23 ].
Traditionally, members of a learning community reside in the same location[ 22 ]. However, as groups migrate and become less homogenous, configurations of 'group identity' based on geographic location become less appropriate. Nowadays communities are linked less by location and more by common interests and goals. Many new learning communities have developed as technology makes global communication increasingly easier and faster.
E-mail discussion lists and online information management systems e. Hence, virtual learning communities are more fluid than traditional communities[ 25 ]. Simply labelling a group of people as a learning community does not guarantee that it will function as one.
A number of situations can hinder relationship building and the growth of communities. For example, tight bonds between members can become exclusive and thus present a major barrier to the integration of newcomers.
Without proper monitoring, this closeness can hinder the acceptance of external input and the development of external collaborations[ 5 ]. A community can also become a clique when relationships among members are so strong that they overshadow all other concerns.
There is also a risk of group-thinking, which can constrain individual growth and creativity if individual members are discouraged from standing out in a community. Furthermore, failure to accommodate change or variation can render a community dysfunctional; a community can become dormant if it fails to attract new members.
All the above situations can hinder exchanges of information and the development of innovative ideas within the community. Finally, in the case of a virtual learning community, issues regarding privacy, user-friendliness of online technologies, and the ability to access a computer can become fatal barriers to an individual's ability to participate[ 25 , 26 ]. A strong learning community fosters interactions and relationships based on mutual respect and trust[ 6 , 15 ].
It creates a social structure for individuals to share ideas and artefacts e. Newcomers in particular can benefit from having access to the archived material in addition to the experience of and mentoring from experts. These conditions provide a rich environment for individuals to share information and ways to apply new knowledge in practice. The elements of a learning community formed the basis for the development of the CoP concept in the early s.
Initially the concept aimed to provide a template for examining the learning that occurs among practitioners in a social environment[ 16 ], but the focus of the concept has diverged during subsequent years[ 27 ]. To understand CoP and to appreciate its various interpretations, one needs to revisit the evolution of the concept.
We focus here on the major publications by Wenger et al. In their earliest work, Lave and Wenger suggested that most of the learning for practitioners occurs in social relationships at the workplace rather than in a classroom setting, a concept known as 'situated learning'[ 16 ].
The central themes of this book are the interactions between novices and experts, and the process by which newcomers create a professional identity. To illustrate these themes, Lave and Wenger used the example of how midwives, meat cutters, and tailors learned their skills onsite in the environment where these skills were used. Much of the learning happened during informal gatherings where professionals interacted with each other and shared stories about their experience, and where novices consulted openly with experts.
Through this process, gaps in the practice were identified and solutions were developed. The informal interactions eventually became the means for practitioners to improve practice and generate new ways to address recurrent problems[ 16 ]. The similarities between Lave and Wenger's viewpoint and the apprenticeship model of learning in the workplace are obvious.
The challenges discussed in this publication are similar to those experienced by members in a learning community, including the tension and conflicts between novices and experts. In this book, CoP is loosely defined as people from the same discipline improving their skills by working alongside experts and being involved in increasingly complicated tasks. The journey from being a newcomer to becoming an expert is captured in the concept of 'legitimate peripheral learning,' in which newcomers are given opportunities to learn by engaging in simple tasks.
Those who eventually master the skills become experts and subsequently assume the responsibility of mentoring other newcomers. In this context, CoPs can be viewed as a system for people to acquire and polish existing skills rather than to create new ways to complete a task[ 27 ].
A few issues were left unresolved in this work, however. Although the hierarchy of power between experts and novices is relatively clear, Lave and Wenger offered little insight into the potential for conflicts among experts or among novices[ 27 ].
Furthermore, although they stressed that CoPs cannot be purposefully formed by organizations, apprenticeship programs and clinical placements can be formally developed for mentoring new health professionals and trainees. It is unclear whether these programs still fit within the concept of CoP. The view of 'learning on the job' is supported by Brown and Duguid's[ 28 ] publication, but in a slightly different way.
They argued that all canonical abstracted, orthodox, managerial accounts of work were inflexible, impractical, and flawed, and that 'local understanding' of a problem was required to solve a problem and complete a task. As such, they used the CoP concept to describe how workers engage in informal groups both at work and off the job to share information and to develop new solutions for job-related problems. The latter deviated from Lave and Wenger's focus on existing skills, and moved on to the creation of new knowledge.
Brown and Duguid also focused on the close relationships among working, learning, and innovating for workers, and stressed the importance of the social environment in advancing practitioners' skills and knowledge in organizations.
They encouraged interaction of workers across different communities within and outside of their own organisation, a concept known as 'community-of-communities' [ 28 ].
Metrics details. In the experience of health professionals, it appears that interacting with peers in the workplace fosters learning and information sharing. Informal groups and networks present good opportunities for information exchange. Communities of practice CoPs , which have been described by Wenger and others as a type of informal learning organization, have received increasing attention in the health care sector; however, the lack of uniform operating definitions of CoPs has resulted in considerable variation in the structure and function of these groups, making it difficult to evaluate their effectiveness. To critique the evolution of the CoP concept as based on the germinal work by Wenger and colleagues published between and CoP was originally developed to provide a template for examining the learning that happens among practitioners in a social environment, but over the years there have been important divergences in the focus of the concept.
Not so long ago, companies were reinvented by teams. Communities of practice may reinvent them yet again—if managers learn to cultivate these fertile organizational forms without destroying them. They use cross-functional teams, customer- or product-focused business units, and work groups—to name just a few organizational forms—to capture and spread ideas and know-how. In many cases, these ways of organizing are very effective, and no one would argue for their demise. But a new organizational form is emerging that promises to complement existing structures and radically galvanize knowledge sharing, learning, and change.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution. Rent this article via DeepDyve. Adler, J. Secondary school teachers' knowledge of the dynamics of teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms. Google Scholar. Resources as a verb: Reconceptualising resources in and for school mathematics. Proceedings of the 22nd conference, psychology of mathematics education , Vol.
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PDF | On Jun 1, , Mellony Graven and others published Wenger, E. (). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity | Find.