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Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521663632
ISBN-10: 0521663636
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives)
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  • Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives)
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  • Cultivating Communities of Practice
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The terms of debate about 'knowledge management' and 'learning organizations' are slowly, and finally turning from issues of information and technology to those of human capabilities and the sources of motivation, creativity, and problem-solving skills that create real value in the new economy. Wenger is light years ahead in understanding those sources, and the critical importance of informal communities and 'social learning' in fostering them." Phillip Brook Manville, Partner, McKinsey & Co.

Book Description

Learning is becoming an urgent topic. Nations worry about the learning of their citizens, companies about the learning of their workers, schools about the learning of their students. But it is not always easy to think about how to foster learning in innovative ways. This book presents a framework for doing that, with a social theory of learning that is ground-breaking yet accessible, with profound implications not only for research, but also for all those who have to foster learning as part of their responsibilites at work, at home, at school.
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Product Details

  • Series: Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (September 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521663636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521663632
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Etienne Wenger-Trayner (formerly Wenger) is a globally recognized thought leader in the field of social learning theory, communities of practice, and their application to organizations. He has authored and co-authored seminal articles and books on the topic, including Situated Learning, where the term "community of practice" was coined; Communities of Practice: learning, meaning, and identity, where he lays out a theory of learning based on the concept; Cultivating Communities of Practice, addressed to practitioners in organizations who want to base their knowledge strategy on communities of practice; and Digital Habitats, which tackles issues of technology. Etienne's work is influencing both theory and practice in a range of disciplines, as well as a growing number of organizations in the private and public sectors. He helps organizations apply his ideas through consulting, public speaking, and workshops. He is also active in the academic sphere. He regularly speaks at conferences, conducts seminars, and is a visiting professor at the universities of Manchester and Aalborg. He recently received an honorary doctorate from the university of Brighton.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on March 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
For those grappling with the need to understand and talk about how people come together and interact beyond the org. chart, this book has a lot to offer. Theoretically-based, it focuses on a social theory of learning that is broad enough to cover a wide range of human activities, well beyond what we would normally consider to be 'learning'. 'Communities of practice' offers a comprehensive framework for understanding and analysing what people do in the context of their social milieu. The author includes many examples and uses a work-place vignette to illustrate the relevance and power of his ideas. If you are not afraid of theory and abstraction and are open to new concepts, this book may indeed be revolutionary.
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Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book that uses communities of practice as the entry-point to think about learning along several rich dimensions (e.g., meaning in relation to participation and artifacts, the relationship between identity and learning).
Definitely worth a slow, reflective reading.
Provides a lot of context for thinking about organizational learning.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was a slow, arduous read, but well worth the effort.

I teach at a school that is part of the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) movement. Wenger's book has shed light on why "top-down" implementation of school improvement has failed. The guru of the PLC movement, Richard Dufour (2004), claims that the three big ideas of PLC's are ensuring that students learn, a culture of collaboration and a focus on results. It is in this context that I found Wenger's book valuable in understanding the poverty of the PLC movement.

Wenger claims that communities of practice are learning communities. Are Professional Learning Communities true learning communities as described by Wenger? The answer is no. In a learning community there is interplay between reification and participation. Reification is the artifacts and procedures of previous practice. Participation is the activity engaged in by the practitioner for the organization that results in reification. It is not an either/or model, but dualism. It is within this interplay that learning about practice and the ownership of meaning and identity formation takes place.

Teachers directed by their employer to become PLCs are required to make such large changes in their teaching practices that they become overwhelmed and lost in establishing new practices. The reason for this is that the PLC regime does not consider the requisite identity work and the time required for teachers to own the meaning of new practices. PLCs are not true learning communities.

What about schools? Wenger claims a community of practice emerges when an organization sets forth a structure to accomplish its goal: "...
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This book is written primarily for academics. Wenger challenges educational institutions to re-think their basic assumptions about learning (e.g., its social aspects, its relationship to practice, and the role of teaching).

I found the book to be very thought provoking, but I would recommend his 2002 book, "Cultivating Communities of Practice," for practitioners.

Michael Beitler

Author of "Strategic Organizational Learning"
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Format: Paperback
One cannot be practically effective without being grounded in a philosophy. Philosophy leads to strategy, and strategy leads to a coordinated set of tactics and the opportunity to be proactive. Without it, tactics are reactive.
This book provides an outstanding philosophical guideline for making sense of the workplace and communities of practice. It is easy to divine practical solutions to common workplace issues and problems as you read it. His vignettes show mistakes that businesses make, and how the communities compensate. Preventing those mistakes in your business allows your communities to solve other problems. Additionally, you will understand where, why, and how your communities and how they help you, and because of this recognition, perhaps you can continuously remove the obstacles to their success.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book to understand how learning, meaning, and identity work within our social learning environments. Again, bought this for my PhD literature review and it helped immensely.
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Format: Paperback
You'll struggle to work through "Communities of Practice." Yet, if you persevere, you'll have gained a sound basis for evaluating and keeping in perspective the relative business value of all the recent advances in knowledge management.
A good companion book to "Communities of Practice" with respect to how people make meaning is Yankelovich's "The Magic of Dialogue."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a really good read on one of the core elements of a situated perspective on learning. It's incredibly accessible (Wenger is so good at making the thing readable and he's a fabulous writer) and super thorough and comprehensive. As someone who's still just exploring this (I only ever read one book on situated learning and I've never taken a graduate course in anything), it's really eye-opening and provocative.

My gripe is that there's a lot in this book. A lot. There could be whole books written on boundary, identities, organizational/education design, etc. I'm compelled to re-read this because I fear I missed a lot since it's just got a lot in it.

I really wish I had read this book before I started undergrad. Could've changed the way I think about how I learn.
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