Why Research Community of Practice?
Predicated on the belief that practices and meanings are only fully contextualized within the context of their authentic use, many educators are looking towards communities as learning environments. While Lave (1993, 1997; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) has brought the most focused attention to the concept of communities of practice, this has been done through an anthropological perspective, with an examination of practices in everyday society. With respect to fostering the development of contexts for learning in schools we are still in our infancy in terms of understanding the potential of, and in terms of understanding what constitutes, a community. Regardless, there have been numerous efforts to introduce the concept of community into educational practice (Brown & Campione, 1990; Lipman, 1988; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1993, Roth, 1998). However, we feel that continued research on learning occurring within the context of a community of practice is necessary. It is with this goal in mind that we are undertaking research on the COT program here at Indiana University.
Perspective on Learning
In adopting a learning framework from which to explain the learning potential of participating within a community of practice, we draw on the work of the anthropologist Etienne Wenger. In Wenger’s framework he proposes a social theory of learning that integrates practice, meaning, identity, and community as necessary components of learning and of knowing. Although each of these components is listed and can be discussed separately, issues of identity, community, practice, and negotiated meanings all contribute to context and, therefore, all reciprocally interact. This social view of learning involves whole persons, and is a process of constructing practice, meaning, and identity all in relation to a community of practice (Barab & Duffy, in press; Lave, 1993, 1997; Lemke, 1997; Walkerdine, 1997; Wenger, 1998). This further suggests a reformulation of what it means to known and learn, from a dualist representational theory separating knowing from that which is known, to one that couples practice and meaning within context, suggesting dialectic, opposed to dualistic, relations among practice, meaning, and context. It is within the interaction that practice, meaning, identity, and community emerge and evolve all of which interactively constitute context.
- From Practice Fields to Communities of Practice
- Developing an Empirical Account of a Community of Practice: Characterizing the Essential Tensions
- Designing and Building an On-line Community: The Struggle to Support Sociability in the Inquiry Learning Forum
- Supporting Authenticity Through Participatory Learning
- An Introduction to the Special Issue: Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning
- Designing System Dualities: Characterizing a Web-Supported Professional Development Community
About Sasha A. Barab PhD
Sasha Barab is a Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, where he co-founded and serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Games and Impact.
Dr. Barab is an internationally recognized Learning Scientist who holds the Pinnacle West Chair of Education, and who has researched, designed, and published extensively on the challenges and opportunities of using games for impact.