Etienne Wenger´s Webseminar on Communiites of Practice was in my opinion one of the most complete of AVEALMEC´s live forums. Although a new topic for me, it is not a recent concept.
A community is by definition a group of people with common interets living in a particular area. So then what exactly is a Community of Practice? (COP). Is a COP a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn and how to do it better as they interact regularly. So any group of passionate people who get together often are a COP, right? wrong !!
According to Professor Wenger who has written extensively on the subject, for a community to be a COP it must have three characterisitics.
The first one is Domain, which is an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership implies a commitment to the domain and a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people.
The second one is The Community, that is members engage in joint activities and discussions, helps each other and share information. members must learn and interact together, otherwise it is not a COP.
The third characteristic is the practice, defined as people who share a repertoire of resources, experiences, stories, tools and ways of addressing recurring problem; in other words a shared practice. it is the combination of these three elements that constitutes a COP.
In education COP´s help to focus knowledge challenges. The first applications of COP´s have been in teacher training where the concept has been used with success. It has also been used for example, for providing adminitrators with access to colleagues thus providing and helping foster peer to peer professional development activites. COP´s are fine exaples of social learning and learning partenerships. COP´s can make a difference when having to face recurrent problems and how to solve them. In the area of education and of language learning.
COP´s can provide trachers with not only the value of information, and shared experience which is a quite valuable resource, but an added value: to estimulate teachers into working together and to make a commitment to continue growing in their chosen field and fields of interest and passion - teaching