Communities of Practice

The term communities of practice (CoP), may as most concepts, be categorized in a variety of ways. In this project we draw on the socio-cultural perspectives developed by Lave and Wenger (1991) and further elaborated by Wenger (1998). In their conceptualization CoP has its roots in attempts to develop accounts of the social nature of human learning inspired by anthropology and social theory (Wenger, 2010).  It builds on the idea that learning is a natural part of social participation, and refers to the process of social learning that is happening when people with common interests collaborate over an extended period and share values, beliefs, language and ways of doing things (Wenger, 1998).

In this project the academic developers and researchers aim at - over time- to develop a cross cultural and international CoP characterised by mutual engagement, joint enterprise and shared repertoire. By this we mean that we share the common concern; to develop more knowledge on the formation and competence building of academic developers – and in turn how academic developers – through their practices - may contribute to the formation of university teachers and their teaching approaches.  In order to develop a CoP all participants have committed to a set of problems we want to investigate and to interact and work together on ongoing basis (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).

The construction of the “Formation CoP” started in Oslo in social and formal meetings August 31. – September 2. 2015 by initiating the negotiation of norms; values; and what should count as valid knowledge as well as ways of arguing, thinking, writing and speaking within the community (Wenger, 1998). As a CoP all participants are “newcomers” and start in a certain legitimate peripheral participation. Thus negotiating meaning of the shared enterprise and (re)defining our legitimate positions in the project is crucial to the common engagement (Trowler, Fanghanel, & Wareham, 2005).  A central tool to be developed is deliberative communication as a way of collaborating that encourages cultivation of a sustainable community over time – a CoP in which supervision and interference are welcomed and academic developers’ and researchers’ practices are open for critical and moral investigation from other members of the group – yet also from ‘significant others’ outside the CoP.


Lave, Jean, & Wenger, Etienne. (1991). Situated learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lisewski, Bernard (2005). The professional development of new Higher Education teachers from a communities of practice perspective: the challenge of ‘accounting for change’ in ‘situated pedagogy'. Retrieved from website:

Trowler, Paul, Fanghanel, Joel , & Wareham, Terry. (2005). Freeing the chi of change: The Higher Education Academy and enhancing teaching and learning in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 30(4), 427–444.

Wenger, Etienne. (1998). Communities of practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, Etienne. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.

Wenger, Etienne. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In C. Blackmore (Ed.), Social Learning Systems and communities of practice: Springer Verlag and the Open University.

Wenger, Etienne, McDermott, Richard, & Snyder, Williams. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Cambridge, USA: Harvard Business School Press.

Published Nov. 2, 2015 4:28 PM - Last modified May 31, 2016 2:54 PM