Communities of practice and social learning systems


Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept

  This article was written by Etienne in 2009 for a textbook co-published by the Open University and Springer. It does two things. It relates the conceptual framework of communities of practice to systems theory and it reviews the career of the concept of community of practice since its inception in Etienne’s work with Jean Lave in 1987.  
A social systems view on learning: communities of practice as social learning systems>
– Learning as the production of social structure
– Learning as the production of identity
A learning view on social systems: communities of practice in social learning systems
– Learning as the structuring of systems: landscapes of practice
– Modes of identification
– Identity in a landscape of practices
– Knowledgeability as the modulation of accountability
Applications and critiques
– A powerless concept: what about power?
– An anachronistic concept: is it history?
– A co-opted concept: on the instrumental slippery slope?
Toward a social discipline of learning
– Practice: learning partnerships
– Learning governance: stewardship and emergence
– Power: vertical and horizontal accountability
– Identity: learning citizenship


Wenger, E. (2010) Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Blackmore, C. (Editor) Social Learning Systems and communities of practice. Springer Verlag and the Open University.

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