Summary: Etienne Wenger summarizes Communities of Practice (CoP) as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” This learning that takes place is not necessarily intentional. Three components are required in order to be a CoP: (1) the domain, (2) the community, and (3) the practice.
Originators: Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in 1991 and further elaborated in 1998.
Key Terms: domain, community, practice, identity, learning
Communities of Practice
The term was first used in 1991 by theorists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger who discussed the notion of legitimate peripheral participation. In 1998, the theorist Etienne Wenger extended the concept and applied it to other domains, such as organizations. With the flourishing of online communities on the Internet, as well as the increasing need for improved knowledge management, there has been much more interest as of late in communities of practice. People see them as ways of promoting innovation, developing social capital, facilitating and spreading knowledge within a group, spreading existing tacit knowledge, etc.
Communities of Practice can be defined, in part, as a process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in a subject or area collaborate over an extended period of time, sharing ideas and strategies, determine solutions, and