Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Communities of practice: the basic theory

Dorine Ruter mentioned that she liked my blog, but that it covers a wide range of topics (she is interested in learning about CoPs). This made me think that I could add a fourth stream: communities of practice inserting both older articles I liked and new ones.

The basic theory is covered in three books: by Cultivating communities of practice Wenger, McDermott and Snyder which is a very good guide for practitioners, Communities of practice: learning, meaning, identity by Etienne Wenger and Situated learning by Wenger and Lave. I read cultivating communities of practice first and this gives a very practical introduction to all issues around communities in various stages of community development. I later read the other two which helped me amongst others to understand the concept of legitimate peripheral participation (a form of apprenticeship whereby people are learning by participating in the practice of the CoP) and reification and participation. (difficult to explain in short but roughly reification is when practice gets defined in forms, documents, instruments, etc., participation is when people interact.) These two concepts help me to analyse situations where there is no balance between the two (for instance where there is a lot of written materials, but people do not read them or really engage with the content, there is too much reification and too little participation and learning gets obstructed).

1 comment:

Dorine Ruter said...

Thanks for the tips, Joitske. I guess I just have to do some offline reading then. Funny how one can get focussed on BROWSING THROUGH online articles and blogposts instead of READING a good book on the matter!

I think the concepts of reification and participation that you mention have links with the post from Giulio Quaggiotto / Manuel Fleury on "lessons to be learned" (21 Nov 2005, http://tinyurl.com/8yyl6 and your own reply to that message). Do Wenger et al. also outline some ideas on HOW to bring balance to situations where there is too much emphasis on reification?

Dorine Ruter