ePortfolio of Daniel R Moirao Ed.D.
Consistantly making learning available to all our students.
Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice = Learning Communities


The rage right now seems to be Learning Communities.  Richard DuFour and Rebecca DuFour seem to be dominating the consultant circuit promoting these learning clubs.  However, it appears a similar form; “community of practice” has been in the private sector for sometime.  Pioneered by the Institute for Research on Learning, spinning off from the Xerox Cooperation.  Communities of Practice pursue a cross-disciplinary approach to learning research, involving cognitive scientists, organizational anthropologists and traditional educators.


Learning is fundamentally a social phenomenon. People organize their learning around the social communities to which they belong. Therefore, schools are only powerful learning environments for students whose social communities coincide with that school.


Knowledge is integrated in the life of communities that share values, beliefs, languages, and ways of doing things. These are called communities of practice. Real knowledge is integrated in the doing, social relations, and expertise of these communities.

The processes of learning and membership in a community of practice are inseparable. Because learning is intertwined with community membership, it is what lets us belong to and adjust our status in the group. As we change our learning, our identity--and our relationship to the group--changes.


Knowledge is inseparable from practice. It is not possible to know without doing. By doing, we learn.


Empowerment--or the ability to contribute to a community--creates the potential for learning. Circumstances in which we engage in real action that has consequences for both us and our community create the most powerful learning environments.



How Communities of Practice Impacts Education

This approach to learning suggests teachers understand their students' communities of practice and acknowledge the learning students do in such communities. The communities of practice theory also suggests educators structure learning opportunities that embed knowledge in both work practices and social relations--for example, apprenticeships, school-based learning, service learning, and so on. Plus, educators should create opportunities for students to solve real problems with adults, in real learning situations.

The content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates.


What is so interesting is how do you get buy-in to the process?  How do you get educators to see the purpose of these Learning Communities? 


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Creating a community, as has already been established in this course, it critical to effective online facilitation!  Creating such communities go back to the earlier study on building trust.  Buidling trust can be difficult online, since a lack of face-to-face contact allows everyone to be vulnerable in different ways.  It is important that early in the relationshiop online, that a sense of community be built.  In a short course, it is imperative to be short and to the point.  In a longer course, more time can be spent developing such communities.  Finding the common purpose or getting participants to realize they share a common purpose, common goals and in some cases common knoweldge and skills is critical in the early days of a new learning community.