Introduction to Communities of Practice

The term “community of practice” is of relatively recent coinage, even though the phenomenon it refers to is age-old. The concept has turned out to provide a useful perspective on knowing and learning. A growing number of people and organizations in various sectors are now focusing on communities of practice as a key to improving their performance.
This brief and general introduction examines what communities of practice are and why researchers and practitioners in so many different contexts find them useful as an approach to knowing and learning. Etienne Wenger is a globally recognized thought leader in the field of communities of practice, who was featured by Training Magazine in their “A new Breed of Visionaries” series. A pioneer of the “communities of practice” research, he is author and co-author of seminal articles and books on the topic, including Situated Learning, where the term was coined, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, where he lays out a theory of learning based on the concept of communities of practice, Cultivating Communities of Practice: a Guide to Managing Knowledge, addressed to practitioners in organizations, and Digital Habitats dealing with issues related to technology. His work as researcher, author, and consultant has influenced both thinking and practice in a wide variety of fields, including business, education, government, and social theory

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