Communities of Practice & Learning



  • learning in a community of practice happens as a result of social participation
    • the individual is an active participant in the process of the community of practice and in the construction of their identity through this community
  • communities of practice are a group of individuals participating in a communal activity, continously creating their shared identity through engaging in and contributing to the practice of their community.
  • negotiation of meaning
    • how we experience the world and our engagement in it as meaningful
    • it has 2 interrelated components:
      • Reification
      • Participation
    • Reification
      • making something real
      • taking something which is abstract and making it into something that is congealed, e.g. symbols and documents
      • essential for preventing informal group activity, getting in the way of conversation and mutual understanding
      • on its own, it can’t support the learning process
    • Participation
      • active involvement in social processes
      • essential for getting around the ambiguity of reification
      • on its own, it also can’t support the learning process
    • Wenger calls the successful interaction of reification and participation the “alignment” of individuals with the communal task
    • “alignment” requires the ability to co-ordinate perspectives and actions in order to work towards a common purpose
  • “Boundary encounters” = importing practices and perspectives from one CoP to another
    • these change the way each community defines its onw identity and practice
    • key to the success of boundary encounters is the role of hughly skilled “brokers” who straddle different CoPs and facilitate the exchange process

Communities of Practice and Situated Learning:

Situated learning is a model for learning in a Community of Practice

  • it is a theory on how individuals acquire professional skills
  • and into how legitimate peripheral participation leads to membership in a CoP
  • it is the relationship between learning and the social situation in which it occurs
  • it is learning that takes place in the same context in which it is applied
  • situated learning should be seen as a social process whereby knowledge is co-constructed
  • it is situated in a specific context and embedded within a paricular social and physical environment

The major elements in situated learning are:

  1. content (facts and processes of a task) – the results are used to solves problems in every day life; application based
  2. context (situations, values, environment, cues) – a platform to examine the experiences
  3. community (the group where the learner will create and negotiate) – the learners create, interpret, reflect and form meanings
  4. participation (where a learner works together with others in order to solve the problem) – interchange of ideas, problem-solving and engaging of the learners take place


Hanks, William F., “Foreword”, Jean Lave and Étienne Wenger (1991). Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators. Cambridge University Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780521423748.

Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press


Clancey; William J (1995). “A tutorial on situated learning”.

Stein; David. “Situated Learning in Adult Education”.





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