Wenger (2011), who is renowned for his work on communities of practice (CoPs) describes them as being ‘formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour’ (p. 1). He also discusses them as one of the three structuring elements of social learning systems, the other two are boundary processes and identities (Wenger, 2000, p. 226). Essentially, CoPs comprise a core group of people who come together, sometimes involving others, to solve a problem or set of problems or issues through sharing knowledge and understanding. The outcomes of CoPs include learning from each other with the ideal result of improving practice (Borzillo, Aznar, & Schmitt, 2011; Hartung & Oliveira, 2013; Sánchez-Cardona, Sánchez-Lugo, & VŽlez-González, 2012).
In higher education settings they exist in both online and face-to-face contexts, within and across institutions covering a broad range of topics. At Flinders, there are a number of CoPs that operate both cross-institutionally and within colleges. Many of these were initially established and supported with federal government funding provided to the University to establish networks (unfortunately this funding is no longer available). However, a number of the CoPs continue to meet (although some meet more regularly than others). For more information about the cross-institutional CoPs operating at Flinders visit the CoPs and interest groups page.
Borzillo, S., Aznar, S., & Schmitt, A. (2011). A journey through communities of practice: How and why members move from the periphery to the core. European Management Journal, 29(1), 25-42.
Hartung, K., & Oliveira, M. (2013). Communities of practice: Creating and sharing knowledge. REGE – Revista de Gestão, 20(3), 407-422. https://doi.org/10.5700/rege507
Sánchez-Cardona, I., Sánchez-Lugo, J., & VŽlez-González, J. (2012). Exploring the potential of communities of practice for learning and collaboration in a higher education context. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 1820-1825. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.385
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246. https://doi.org/10.1177/135050840072002
Wenger, E. (2011, October). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1794/11736
Contributed by Dr Ann Luzeckyj
Senior Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT