Paper Analysis: “Communities of Practice in Academia: Testing a quantitative model”


Nistor, N., & Fischer, F. (2012). Communities of practice in academia: Testing a quantitative model. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 1(2), 114–126.

(good paper to reference to for quantitative research method, i.e. survey questions)


  • the fundamental notions of CoPs have been mainly based on qualititative studies but this paper create a quantitative model of CoPs that describes the variables of CoPs in the context of academic communities and they aim to validate this model in 2 academic CoPs using cluster and regression analysis
  • Communities of Practice (CoPs) are groups of people sharing goals, activities and experiences in the context of a given practice
  • Participation in CoPs is assumed to lead to the
    • accumulation of experience
    • stimulation of the social construction of knowledge
    • development of expertise
  • the basic phenomenon of CoPs is learning and the potential curriculum is defined by the CoP
  • Situated learning theory illustrates the meaning of the notions of CoPs, e.g. midwives who allow younger wome to observe their activities when they are attending a mother in labor
  • The central variables of CoPs:
    • Expertise in CoPs – advanced and reproducible knowledge in a specific domain; Wenger’s view of learning by experience implies that experience is correlated with domain knowledge and both have an impact on CoP participation; expertise is an individual characterisitc of the expert; expertise is often required in a CoP but it can often be brouoght in from outside as well; expertise is a determinant of participation in CoPs
    • Participation in CoPs – participation is the way in which CoP members gain experience with the community practice and thereby construct knowledge and in some cases knowledge is an access requirement for CoPs
    • Expert Status – identity in CoPs can be describes as various grades of expertise, from notice to expert – changing identity from notice to expert is an organic aspect of learning in CoPs; expert status appears to be a result of participation in a CoP; there is an influence of expertise on expert status but it is mediated by partcipation
    • Cultural Artifact Development – artifacts are boundary objects and designing them is designing for participation rather than just use. Connecting the communities involved, understanding practices and managing boundaries become fundamental design tasks – a novice of the academic CoP will have spent little time in the CoP and will bring a small contribution to the artifact development – an expert will have spent a long time in the CoP, will have extensive domain knowledge and will have a significant contribution to artifact development

The rest of the paper goes on to describe the results and findings of the study (figures, tables, graphs etc.)


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