Communities of Practice (Formation and Facilitation)

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Mike Baird,

"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,2006)

Annotated Bibliography

Link to Complete Bibliography
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  • A classification of communities of practice (2006). IGI Global.Ubc-elink.png

  • Akkerman, S., Petter, C., & de Laat, M. (2008). Organising communities-of-practice: Facilitating emergence. Journal of Workplace Learning, 20(6), 383-399.Ubc-elink.png

This paper aims to gain insight into ways in which communities of practice can be deliberately organized. Design/methodology/approach. Findings: In the initiation of a CoP it is important that before an outsider starts to organize and coordinate activities questions such as "How are we relevant to one another?" and "Who are we and where are we going?" are answered first, and by the group itself. These questions relate to the development of meaningful activity (domain) and of shared activity (community). Following this, any coordinative system, any practice, should be subordinated to the motives of the group.

  • Evans, M. A., & Powell, A. (2007). Conceptual and practical issues related to the design for and sustainability of communities of practice: The case of E-portfolio use in preservice teacher training. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 16(2), 199-214.Ubc-elink.png

A CoP has a social purpose of supporting peers and colleagues by sharing knowledge and artifacts that serve authentic practice. E-portfolios, online versions of longstanding practice in teacher education, would appear to be ideal candidates to undertake such a task. Nevertheless, the authors argue that conceptual and practical issues must be addressed before significant changes can occur. In the end, a healthy critique of the conceptual and practical aspects of supporting communities of practice online will result in more authentic, effective training of our next generation of teachers.

  • Garavan, T. N., Carbery, R., & Murphy, E. (2007). Managing intentionally created communities of practice for knowledge sourcing across organisational boundaries: Insights on the role of the CoP manager. Learning Organization, 14(1), 34-49.Ubc-elink.png

The study identified a number of specific strategies CoP managers use to develop trust, facilitate collaboration, facilitate the negotiation of shared meaning and manage power issues within the CoP. The study highlights the concept of CoP is not confined to traditional understandings but includes intentionally created highly structured time-bound groupings of individuals who work in a collaborative manner to share knowledge. The paper offers learning from CoP managers and highlights the practical implications of their experiences.

  • Helm, J. H. (2007). Energize your professional development by connecting with a purpose: Building communities of practice. Young Children, 62(4), 12-17.Ubc-elink.png

Communities of practice have enormous potential to support and sustain quality care and education within a community and, in fact, are doing so. Businesses and other organizations establish and use "communities of practice" like the Illinois Project Group as a powerful tool in improving performance and quality. This article discusses ways to establish and bring the energy of communities of practice to the community.

  • Laxton, R., & Applebee, A. C. (2010). Developing communities of practice around e-learning and project management. Journal of Distance Education, 24(1), 123-142.Ubc-elink.png

In 2007-8 the Australian Catholic University (ACU National), undertook a project to develop new resources to provide training and support in eLearning for staff and students. This reflective case study reports on how the use of ACU's project management methodology and the selection of a matrix organization for the project, resulted in the nurturing of existing communities of practice (CoPs) around both eLearning and project management at ACU. Key recommendations are that effective project management practice and a matrix project organization can promote and nurture knowledge sharing amongst CoPs in a university setting.

  • Wenger, E. C., & Snyder, W. M. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review, 78(1), 139-45.Ubc-elink.png

Communities of practice are groups of people informally bound by shared expertise and passion for joint enterprise. In organizations that value knowledge, they can help drive strategy, solve problems quickly, transfer best practices, develop professional skills, and help recruit and retain talented employees.

Communities of Practice: Blended & Online

  • Byington, T. A. (2011). Communities of practice: Using blogs to increase collaboration. Intervention in School and Clinic, 46(5), 280-291.Ubc-elink.png

A community of practice provides a forum for professionals to exchange ideas and discuss concerns related to the profession. Within this forum, technology can eliminate many of the constraints face-to-face communities of practice encounter by providing a convenient and highly interactive environment. A description of how to set up an online community of practice using blogs is described. Blogging can support professional learning by giving teachers a platform for interacting and collaborating with other professionals. The steps for creating a blog are given.

  • Kala S. Retna, & Pak Tee Ng. (2011). Communities of practice: Dynamics and success factors. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 32(1), 41-59.Permalink.svg Permalink

This paper explores the dynamics and key success factors in the development of communities of practice (CoP). A qualitative case study, using in-depth interviews, was conducted in a multinational company (MNC) in Singapore. The findings indicate that CoPs can facilitate the creation, sharing and utilization of knowledge in an organization, positively affecting its strategy, operations and bottom line. The key factors that nurture CoPs to promote innovative learning and knowledge-sharing environments are leadership, culture and individual motivation. The findings indicate the value of informal CoPs in promoting innovative cultures with high levels of collaboration among organizational members. This is an empirical study that reveals the dynamics of CoP development in an MNC and the key success factors of CoP development from the point of view of the employees in the company.

  • Karacapilidis, N., & ebrary, I. (2010). Web-based learning solutions for communities of practice: Developing virtual environments for social and pedagogical advancement. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.Ubc-elink.png

"This book provides readers with an up-to-date research manual in developing innovative and effective learning systems using web-based technologies"--Provided by publisher.

  • Kimble, C. & Hildreth, P. (2005). Dualities, distributed communities of practice and knowledge management. Journal of Knowledge Management, 9(4), 102-113.Permalink.svg Permalink

This article explores the relationship between knowledge management (KM) and communities of practice (CoPs) in general and virtual CoPs in particular. A subsidiary aim is to provide some practical guidelines about how virtual CoPs can be facilitated and maintained. The article reports on a case study of a “virtual” CoP and highlights two key aspects of virtual working. The article demonstrates how these key aspects map on to Wenger's participation-reification duality and, in turn, on to the soft-hard duality described by Hildreth and Kimble. Findings – The case study of a “virtual” CoP was based in three geographically separate locations (the UK, the USA, and Japan). The case study highlights the importance of two particular aspects or virtual working: social relationships and the use of shared artefacts. Some general conclusions are drawn from the analysis concerning the facilitation of virtual CoPs and the broader implications of dualities for KM. The main contribution of the article is in making an explicit link between KM and CoPs through the use of the notion of the duality of knowledge.

  • Silva, L., Mousavidin, E., & Goel, L. (2006). Weblogging: Implementing communities of practice. (pp. 295-316). Boston, MA: Springer US.Permalink.svg Permalink

This paper centers on the emergent phenomenon of weblogging. Even though the total number of weblogs is increasing at an exponential rate, little formal study has been done on this phenomenon. This paper provides two main contributions. First, it describes the phenomenon of weblogging and conceptualizes it, discussing significant attributes of weblogs that set it apart from traditional communication means. Second, it establishes a framework grounded in the theory of communities of practice that provides a lens to study the potential role of weblogging in organizational communication. The research approach is qualitative and analysis is done by interpreting the content of a weblog through a hermeneutic approach. Weblogging can be seen to foster social inclusion based on its characteristics and nature. Our study shows that by its features of interaction and informality, weblogging cultivates social inclusion, particularly that of employees working in a corporation. The paper concludes by reflecting on the potential of weblogging for enabling informal means of communication in organizations.

  • Wagner, J. M. (2010). Professional development in the digital age: Case studies of blended communities of practice.Permalink.svg Permalink

The need for sustainable, meaningful teacher professional development to support the rising professional demands remains an on-going challenge for education. The use of current technologies, such as online learning systems, to leverage the development of learning communities, including communities of practice (CoPs), where teachers with a common interest engage in continuous interaction and knowledge sharing, is a rising trend. The increasingly popular blended model allows teachers to build trust and community in-person, extending knowledge sharing online in an anytime, anyplace environment. Blended CoPs are purported to promote ongoing and meaningful professional development, yet how to leverage current technologies effectively remains inconclusive. Further research is needed to determine how to successfully create these communities and how they affect teacher learning and professional practice, especially in K-12 settings. The purpose of this multiple-case study was to learn what role the blended environment played in supporting the CoPs in accomplishing their goals, with a specific focus on the factors of culture, facilitation, design, discourse and patterns of communication. Two developing blended CoPs in a large, urban school district were studied in depth for about four months. Data collection for each CoP included: four online observations; four in-person observations; semi-structured interviews with the leaders and five selected participants based on low, average or high levels of engagement; an initial survey; and a final reflective survey. Data were coded using inductive and deductive themes and analyzed using HyperResearch qualitative software. Findings center on supporting and hindering themes for each of the five factors, and how they affected the creation and goal accomplishment of blended CoPs for teacher learning. A preliminary framework with 16 recommended key components, including suggested elements for the blended environment is presented. While more research is needed to determine the validity of this framework, the 16 elements provide a promising starting point for CoP leaders hoping to inform their practice to advance teacher learning and ultimately support student academic achievement. Limitations, delimitations and directions for further research are discussed.

  • Wei Zhang, & Stephanie Watts. (2008). Online communities as communities of practice: A case study. Journal of Knowledge Management, 12(4), 55-71.Permalink.svg Permalink

The purpose of this paper is to investigate to which extent the concept of communities of practice (CoPs) can be applied to online communities and to explore how organizations can better utilize online social structures for their knowledge management practice. A case study was used to examine an online community with the practice-and-identity framework that characterizes conventional CoPs. Qualitative data analysis was conducted primarily on 7,853 messages downloaded from the online community during a six week period. The results showed how an online community could manifest the practice and identity characteristics of conventional CoPs as community members actively engaged in their shared practice and identity development while pursuing a joint enterprise. Research limitations/implications – The study was conducted in a single Chinese online community on traveling, which may limit the generalizability of the findings. Practical implications – This study suggested how organizations can nurture online CoPs. In addition, a hierarchical model was proposed to help organizations identify the appropriate online social structure for their knowledge management purposes. Originality/value – This study empirically verified that CoPs can emerge from online communities and demonstrated that the concept of CoPs can be used to guide knowledge sharing and knowledge creation in online environments.

  • Yukawa, J. (2010). Communities of practice for blended learning: Toward an integrated model for LIS education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 51(2), 54.Ubc-elink.png

LIS programs face the dual challenges of providing quality online education and preparing future professionals to work in blended environments. Blended learning in a classroom community of practice (CoP) supports professional development through active engagement and collaborative learning while simultaneously exposing students to the skills in librarianship, information technology, and instructional design that are needed by blended librarians. This paper presents a CoP model for blended learning as a guide for the design of effective learning environments to foster student growth related to core LIS concepts, practices, values, and leadership skills. The model's application to the design and implementation of one graduate level LIS course is described and discussed, with the aim of providing a basis for assessing its strengths, weaknesses, and value for replication. Student responses to the learning experience indicate that the approach was sufficiently effective to warrant further use and refinement.

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