Community of Practice

Husky Sport looks to capitalize on the benefits of cultivating a community of practice as a vehicle for formal professional development on UConn’s campus and alongside our stakeholders in Hartford.Communities of practice are everywhere; in our workplaces, schools, and within social settings (Clayton & Cuddapah, 2011). In some we are core members and have voice in determining the direction of the community, while in others we are on the sidelines occupying the role of the observer, taking in information with less of an active role, but still feeling influenced by our participation in the community of practice.   The primary focus of community of practice as a concept is on learning as social participation, looking at participation as engagement in events and certain activities (practice) with certain people (community), but also as the process of being active participants in practices of a social community and constructing identities in relation to these communities (Wenger, 1998).

In looking at the community of practice framework, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions; joint enterprise, mutual engagement and shared repertoire (Cheng, E.C.K & Lee, J.C.K 2013; Akerson V., Cullen T., Hanson D, 2009; Wenger, 1998).  

  • Communities of practice are a joint enterprise, meaning that the common sense of identity and purpose is shared by group members, with the understanding of the practice being a result of a continual and collective negotiation by members (Cheng, E.C.K & Lee, J.C.K 2013; Wenger, 1998). The community of practice negotiates its meaning and relevance which are continuously regenerated by its members, this mutuality also creates accountability among members and membership.  
  • Mutual engagement speaks to the engagement that happens and holds members together in the creation and existence of the community of practice.  Wenger (1998) explains that “practice does not exist in the abstract. It exists because people are engaged in actions whose meanings they negotiate with one another” (p. 73). The practice endures because there are invested community members who engage in action whose meaning they negotiate with one another, each member brings their own unique identity to the practice and also gains a unique identity through the process of engaging as a member in the community of practice.  In bringing unique identity and experiences to the community members are able to share ideas or questions, ask questions and seek to learn new information, and admit ignorance in the pursuit of learning from others (Cheng, E.C.K & Lee, J.C.K, 2013)
  • Communities of practice define themselves with some shared set norms that include routines, words, ways of doing things, artifacts and symbols, this shared repertoire tends to evolve and adapt over time and is heavily influenced by the members of the practice (Cheng, E.C.K & Lee, J.C.K, 2013; Wenger, 1998).

A community of practice is much more than the technical knowledge that it takes to get the job done, it underscores the importance of the relationships that grow over time and the community that develops around things that matter to the people within the community, they allow us to see past the more formal structures of an organization and experience the structures as they are defined by the engagement including all of the informal learning that comes along with it (Wenger, 2009). Oftentimes learning that is acquired through a community of practice is seen as informal learning (Boud and Middleton 2002; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger 1998) ,  however Lumpe (2007) suggests that professional development programs should aim to develop learning community using research-based strategies.  He notes that research has shown the quick-fix or one time professional development  programs are ineffective ways to change practice.  Rather, if we aim to develop a CoP to encourage the opportunity for collaboration and working together, this may be a more effective way for teachers to refine their skills (Lumpe 2007, Akerson et al 2009).


Citations: (Clayton & Cuddapah, 2011; Wenger, 1998; Cheng, E.C.K & Lee, J.C.K 2013; Akerson V., Cullen T., Hanson D, 2009; Wenger, 2009; Boud and Middleton 2002; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Lumpe 2007, Akerson et al 2009)