Editing Internet Texts/Community of Practice

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Community of Practice

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Community of practice (CoP) is group of people who share the same interests for something and broaden their knowledge about those interests by interacting with each other on regular basis. The concept was first proposed by Jean Lave and Étienne Wenger in their work Situated Learning[1] (1991). In 1998 Wenger expanded this concept even further in his book Communities of Practice[2].

The main ideas regarding CoP is that there has to be a domain, a community and practice. CoP has a certain domain of interest (e.g. people who are interested in becoming English teachers or simply English learners at academic level), a community of people who share their knowledge in this topic and interact with each other and then people who are a part of a CoP need some practice of their subject. They exchange their views, experiences and other worthy notes and ideas regarding the topic so they all benefit from learning from one another. Social learning is one of the best ways of learning as humans often thrive in communities. What is more, the learning that takes place in a CoP is very often a subconscious process and, therefore, it can be perceived as more benefitting and simply better than a conscious education.

Communities of practice can be formed by just anybody, irrespective of their knowledge, educational background or age. As long as the practitioners remain active in their pursuit of knowledge, their community is likely to expand and members of the group are likely to broaden their knowledge.

File:CoP Chart.png
Community of Practice Chart


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Jean Lave and Étienne Wenger coined the term 'Community of Practice' while they were studying apprenticeship as a learning model. They perceived this type of relation in broader terms than just relationship between the apprentice and the tutor. They noticed that there are more complex relationships that are created between the those two roles that allow the processes of learning and teaching to take place. Community of practice term started being used to describe a community which works as a source of knowledge for the apprentices. Once the term was coined, Lave and Wenger started to notice such communities even in situations where there was no formal apprenticeship systems. This term was broadly described in their book Situated Learning[3] (1991).

Wenger expanded this term and updated certain criterias of CoP in his work Communities of Practice[4] published in 1998.

Brown and Duguid (1991)[5] investigated learning from a community point of view, following Lave and Wenger's footsteps. In their research, they claim that there is canonical and non-canonical practice, two concepts that are in line with reasoning provided by Lave and Wenger in regards to so called 'legitimate perpipheral learning'. Canonical practice is connected with following formal rules and policies whereas non-canonical practice is connected with every day routines and interactions that are not constrained by formalities. Brown and Duguid highlight the problem of obeying the canonical practice too much, claiming that such adherence to the strict rules may hamper problem-solving ability and that it is non-canonical practice such as conversations that develop the aforementioned ability even further.


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It has to be noted that not every community is a community of practice. There are three major characteristics underlined by Wenger that are crucial for a CoP to exist:

  1. The domain: Each community of practice is not merely a group of friends or or a club, it has a defined domain of interest. Being a member of a community of practice means contributing to it, which indicates shared competence that distinguishes the members from the people who are not involved in it. The domain may not be recognized by the bystanders but the most important part is that the members of it learn from each other and don't need to be valued by the people outside of it.
  2. The community: Members of a community of practice keep interacting with each other in a mutual pursuit of knowledge. They help each other, share information and engage in discussions and activities. Relationships built during that process are incredibly important. It has to be noted that e.g. having the same job or the same academical background does not make a community of practice as long as the members of the domain do not interact and learn together. However, the members of a community of practice do not need to work together on a daily basis.
  3. The practice: A group of people who are interested in the same type of a music genre are not a community of practice. Members of a community of practice and practitioners who share tools, experience, information, stories and know-how in order to address certain problems they stumble upon. The learning process that takes place may be conscious or subconscious. E.g. a group of doctors who meet for a lunch in a restaurant and share their job-related experiences regarding their patients, most likely subconscious, create a community of practice as they learn from each other, give future solutions to the problems that may have not been yet faced by their colleagues and pose as a living source of knowledge for each other.

Examples of CoP usage

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Wenger in his article[6]lists examples of sectors where this concept is applied:

  • Organizations
  • Government
  • Education
  • Associations
  • Social sector
  • International development
  • The web

This concept has influenced various domains that quite often have little to do with each other. As Wenger notes in his article (2015:4) 'apprenticeship studies, the concept was grabbed by businesses interested in knowledge management and has progressively found its way into other sectors. It has now become the foundation of a perspective on knowing and learning that informs efforts to create learning systems in various sectors and at various levels of scale, from local communities, to single organizations, partnerships, cities, regions, and the entire world.'

Activities in CoP

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As Wenger notes, (2015[7]) communities develop through a variety of activities, e.g.:

Problem solving 'Could you guys help me expand this idea? I'm out of ideas.'
Requesting information 'Where can I source for this citation?'
Seeking experience 'Has anybody dealt with this before?'
Assets reusing 'I've got a template for it from last year. We can tweak it a little bit and it will fit fine.'
Coordinating & cooperating 'Mike, while I'm dealing with the database, could you possibly set-up the network?.'
Discussing progress 'So, do you like where this project is going?'
Documenting 'Since we've stumbled upon this particular problem more than once now, let's just note it down for any further developments.'
Visiting 'Hey, let's meet at my place so we can establish a further plan of actions.'
Identifying gaps 'Anybody knows why it's not working?'

As noticeable, those activities are quite prevalent wherever we go, and thus, so are the communities of practice. They vary depending on their purpose, number of participants, aims, professionalism or lack of thereof, level of engagement of the participants and more. Communities of practice have been around dating as far as the signs of cooperation and co-learning of first humans. They can also exist within other communities of practice (e.g. smaller teams responsible for particular tasks in larger companies), rely on face-to-face meetings or exist purely on the Internet. Due to their prevalence, they often remain invisible to the naked eye yet it doesn't erase them from existence.

With your classmates, divide yourselves into groups of four and create your own Wikiversity project.

  • Decide together on a project - it has to be a mutually agreed subject.
  • Negotiate a role and a function for each of the members in the group (e.g. team leader, supervisor, researcher, content supervisor, language supervisor, etc.).
  • For your project, use a file taken from Wikicommons.
  • Write a very short description of the project.
  • Leave a personal message here once you are done.

Feel free to treat this particular Wikiversity page as a source of inspiration for your work and make a reference to this page on your newly founded Wikiversity project.

See also

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  1. https://books.google.pl/books?id=CAVIOrW3vYAC&redir_esc=y
  2. https://books.google.pl/books?id=heBZpgYUKdAC&dq=Communities+of+Practice:+Learning,+Meaning,+and+Identity&printsec=frontcover&q=&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Communities%20of%20Practice%3A%20Learning%2C%20Meaning%2C%20and%20Identity&f=false
  3. https://books.google.pl/books?id=CAVIOrW3vYAC&redir_esc=y
  4. https://books.google.pl/books?id=heBZpgYUKdAC&dq=Communities+of+Practice:+Learning,+Meaning,+and+Identity&printsec=frontcover&q=&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Communities%20of%20Practice%3A%20Learning%2C%20Meaning%2C%20and%20Identity&f=false
  5. Brown, J.S. & Duguid, P., (1991) Organizational Learning and Communities of Practice. Toward a Unified View of Working, Organization Science vol.2, no.1.
  6. https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/11736/A%20brief%20introduction%20to%20CoP.pdf?sequence%E2%80%B0=%E2%80%B01
  7. https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/11736/A%20brief%20introduction%20to%20CoP.pdf?sequence%E2%80%B0=%E2%80%B01