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Adam DeWitt

think:lab: Where Books Come To Life - 19 views

    Great introduction example for books
Barbara Lindsey

Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice - 1 views

  • Supposing learning is social and comes largely from of our experience of participating in daily life? It was this thought that formed the basis of a significant rethinking of learning theory in the late 1980s and early 1990s by two researchers from very different disciplines - Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. Their model of situated learning proposed that learning involved a process of engagement in a 'community of practice'. 
  • When looking closely at everyday activity, she has argued, it is clear that 'learning is ubiquitous in ongoing activity, though often unrecognized as such' (Lave 1993: 5).
  • Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope. In a nutshell: Communities of practice are 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. (Wenger circa 2007)
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  • Over time, this collective learning results in practices that reflect both the pursuit of our enterprises and the attendant social relations. These practices are thus the property of a kind of community created over time by the sustained pursuit of a shared enterprise. It makes sense, therefore to call these kinds of communities communities of practice. (Wenger 1998: 45)
  • The characteristics of communities of practice According to Etienne Wenger (c 2007), three elements are crucial in distinguishing a community of practice from other groups and communities: The domain. A community of practice is is something more than a club of friends or a network of connections between people. 'It has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people' (op. cit.). The community. 'In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other' (op. cit.). The practice. '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' (op. cit.).
  • The fact that they are organizing around some particular area of knowledge and activity gives members a sense of joint enterprise and identity. For a community of practice to function it needs to generate and appropriate a shared repertoire of ideas, commitments and memories. It also needs to develop various resources such as tools, documents, routines, vocabulary and symbols that in some way carry the accumulated knowledge of the community.
  • The interactions involved, and the ability to undertake larger or more complex activities and projects though cooperation, bind people together and help to facilitate relationship and trust
  • Rather than looking to learning as the acquisition of certain forms of knowledge, Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger have tried to place it in social relationships – situations of co-participation.
  • It not so much that learners acquire structures or models to understand the world, but they participate in frameworks that that have structure. Learning involves participation in a community of practice. And that participation 'refers not just to local events of engagement in certain activities with certain people, but to a more encompassing process of being active participants in the practices of social communities and constructing identities in relation to these communities' (Wenger 1999: 4).
  • Initially people have to join communities and learn at the periphery. The things they are involved in, the tasks they do may be less key to the community than others.
  • Learning is, thus, not seen as the acquisition of knowledge by individuals so much as a process of social participation. The nature of the situation impacts significantly on the process.
  • What is more, and in contrast with learning as internalization, ‘learning as increasing participation in communities of practice concerns the whole person acting in the world’ (Lave and Wenger 1991: 49). The focus is on the ways in which learning is ‘an evolving, continuously renewed set of relations’ (ibid.: 50). In other words, this is a relational view of the person and learning (see the discussion of selfhood).
  • 'the purpose is not to learn from talk as a substitute for legitimate peripheral participation; it is to learn to talk as a key to legitimate peripheral participation'. This orientation has the definite advantage of drawing attention to the need to understand knowledge and learning in context. However, situated learning depends on two claims: It makes no sense to talk of knowledge that is decontextualized, abstract or general. New knowledge and learning are properly conceived as being located in communities of practice (Tennant 1997: 77).
  • There is a risk, as Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger acknowledge, of romanticizing communities of practice.
  • 'In their eagerness to debunk testing, formal education and formal accreditation, they do not analyse how their omission [of a range of questions and issues] affects power relations, access, public knowledge and public accountability' (Tennant 1997: 79).
  • Perhaps the most helpful of these explorations is that of Barbara Rogoff and her colleagues (2001). They examine the work of an innovative school in Salt Lake City and how teachers, students and parents were able to work together to develop an approach to schooling based around the principle that learning 'occurs through interested participation with other learners'.
  • Learning is in the relationships between people. As McDermott (in Murphy 1999:17) puts it: Learning traditionally gets measured as on the assumption that it is a possession of individuals that can be found inside their heads… [Here] learning is in the relationships between people. Learning is in the conditions that bring people together and organize a point of contact that allows for particular pieces of information to take on a relevance; without the points of contact, without the system of relevancies, there is not learning, and there is little memory. Learning does not belong to individual persons, but to the various conversations of which they are a part.
  • One of the implications for schools, as Barbara Rogoff and her colleagues suggest is that they must prioritize 'instruction that builds on children's interests in a collaborative way'. Such schools need also to be places where 'learning activities are planned by children as well as adults, and where parents and teachers not only foster children's learning but also learn from their own involvement with children' (2001: 3). Their example in this area have particular force as they are derived from actual school practice.
  • learning involves a deepening process of participation in a community of practice
  • Acknowledging that communities of practice affect performance is important in part because of their potential to overcome the inherent problems of a slow-moving traditional hierarchy in a fast-moving virtual economy. Communities also appear to be an effective way for organizations to handle unstructured problems and to share knowledge outside of the traditional structural boundaries. In addition, the community concept is acknowledged to be a means of developing and maintaining long-term organizational memory. These outcomes are an important, yet often unrecognized, supplement to the value that individual members of a community obtain in the form of enriched learning and higher motivation to apply what they learn. (Lesser and Storck 2001)
  • Educators need to reflect on their understanding of what constitutes knowledge and practice. Perhaps one of the most important things to grasp here is the extent to which education involves informed and committed action.
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