Communities of practice

We are Australian leaders in researching and fostering communities of practice, as evidenced by our national and ilnternational publications below.

Improving practice in Australia's vocational education and training sector through communities of practice

This chapter from the book Communities of practice: creating learning environments for educators (2008) provides a summary of findings from the literature about the benefits of CoPs, the methodology used to evaluate the CoPs, some key themes emerging from the evaluation, and a discussion of the benefits of CoPs, particularly for individual practitioners. Click here to download abstract. For full reference click here.

The potential for communities of practice to underpin the national training system

The major theme emerging from this evaluation study is that Communities of Practice in the vocational education and training (VET) sector in Australia have the potential to accelerate, intensify, enrich and enhance the implementation of the national training system.Click here to download.

Communities of practice and the National Training System: core ideas

This short publication summaries the main ideas behind communities of practice in relation to the vocational education and training sector.

Communities of practice change practice - but not always, nor easily

By focusing on findings from more recent communities of practice functioning in VET (Mitchell et al. 2005), this paper builds on the participative evaluation by Mitchell, Young and McKenna (e.g. Young & Mitchell 2003a, 2003b; Mitchell et al. 2004; Mitchell et al. 2005) of more than one hundred communities of practice formed from 2001-2004. The Australian VET research conducted over those four years consistently demonstrates that communities of practice are powerful mechanisms for integrating work and learning. However, social learning that occurs in communities of practice may not always translate into organisational learning, unless facilitated effectively. Click here.

Effectively structuring Communities of Practice

Communities of practice are groups of people bound together by common interests and a passion for a cause, and who continually interact. The report shows that effectively structured communities of practice can have significant impacts on the implementation of the national training system in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. Click here to download.

Putting more practice into communities of practice

This Paper is based on the evaluation of a sample of communities of practice formed with funding from Reframing the Future in 2002. The paper provides three good practice examples from the 2002 communities that were effective in identifying, reflecting upon and improving their practice, such as their ideas, tools and work styles. This reflection on practice was particularly apparent in the following ways: the participants' examination of their assessment and delivery strategies, their focus on improving their collaboration with their peers and their expressed desire to improve their negotiations with clients. The paper adds to the collective knowledge in the vocational education and training (VET) sector about the value of communities of practice for improving practice. Click here to download

Communities of practice change practice - but not always, or easily

There are conflicting views in the literature about the value of communities of practice in integrating work and learning. The earlier confidence about their value as articulated by USA researchers such as Cohen and Prusak (2001) and Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) is now being challenged by research, for instance from the United Kingdom (e.g. Hodkinson and Hodkinson 2004) and Europe (e.g. Huysman 2004).

The Australian VET research conducted over those four years consistently demonstrates that communities of practice are powerful mechanisms for integrating work and learning. However, social learning that occurs in communities of practice may not always translate into organisational learning, unless facilitated effectively. Click here.

Communities of practice: Reshaping Professional Practice and Improving Organisational Productivity in the VET Sector

Globalisation and the rise of communications and information technology are having a marked impact on organisations and the individuals that work within them. In this global and networked environment, knowledge is a key source of competitive advantage that can improve individual and organisational effectiveness and efficiency and lead to innovation and creativity. Traditional knowledge management approaches attempt to capture existing knowledge within formal systems, such as databases (Wenger, 1998a, p.1). During the 1990s Communities of Practice emerged as an approach to engaging people in the process of 'knowledge sharing, learning and change' (Wenger and Snyder, 2000, p. 139). Click here to download.

Communities of practice - Benefits for VET professionals

Recurring themes in this paper are that the VET communities of practice fostered trust, communication and sharing, while also concretely enhancing the work of the VET professional. The paper also suggested that if the individual benefited from a community of practice, the benefits flowed through to the organisation. Click here to download.