Theoretical Foundations

Communities of Practice grow out of the work of Etienne Wenger, a learning theorist. Wenger first identified Communities of Practice with Anthropologist Jean Lave in their study of apprenticeship models of learning. Since their original study in 1991, they have identified and developed Communities of Practice in a variety of sectors, including education, associations, government, and industry.

A Community of Practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. A Community of Practice has the following elements:

  • A Community of Practice has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people. They value their collective competence and learn from each other.
  • The community members, in pursing their interest in their domain, engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other; they care about their standing with each other.
  • Members of a Community of Practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems – in short, a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction.

More information about the theoretical foundations of Communities of Practice, along with further readings can be found here