17 मार्च 2013

community of practic :framework for thinking about learning in terms of communities, their practices, the meanings ,the identities

Communities of practice:learning, meaning, and identityBy Etienne Wenger
This is what we are doing whenever we made a group to do something . Wonderful to read this in a academic context .

Book summary
This book explores the concept of community of practice. It proposes a framework for thinking about learning in terms of communities, their practices, the meanings they make possible, and the identities they open. Finally, the book explores the implications of this framework for the design of organizations and educational systems. It consists of two Parts and an Epilogue.
Part I: Practice
Part I is a discussion of the concept of practice and of the kind of social communities that practice defines. Each chapter provides a specific characterization of the concept of community of practice, including:

  • the level of analysis at which the concept of practice is useful
  • the defining characteristics of communities of practice
  • the evolution of communities of practice over time
  • boundaries and relations among communities of practice
  • constellations formed by interrelated communities of practice
1. Practice as meaning:Chapter 1 sets the stage conceptually by arguing that the social production of meaning is the relevant level of analysis for talking about practice. In making that argument, I introduce three basic concepts-negotiation of meaning, participation, and reification-that serve as a foundation, not only for Part I, but for the whole book.
2. Practice as community:Chapter 2 defines the concept of community of practice by talking about practice as the source of coherence of a community. I introduce three dimensions of this relation between practice and community: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire of ways of doing things.
3. Practice as learning:Chapter 3 addresses the development of communities of practice over time. I discuss the factors of continuity and discontinuity that constitute a community of practice over time. I argue that practice itself must be understood as a learning process and that a community of practice is therefore an emergent structure, neither inherently stable nor randomly changeable. I end by talking about the learning by which newcomers can join the community and thus further its practice.
4. Practice as boundary:Chapter 4 discusses the boundaries that practice creates. I describe the types of connections that create bridges across boundaries and link communities of practice with the rest of the world. I end by arguing that boundaries of practice are not simple lines of demarcation between inside and outside, but form a complex social landscape of boundaries and peripheries that open and close various forms of participation.
5. Practice as locality:Chapter 5 addresses the scope and limits of the concept of community of practice. I discuss when to view a social configuration as one community or as a constellation of communities of practice. Here I start talking about other levels of social structure, but still in terms of practice.
Knowing in practice:Coda I ends this discussion of practice with a brief essay on knowing in practice. Echoing the argument of Part I. I summarize the themes introduced in each chapter by using them to ponder what it means to know in practice. This results in a definition of learning as an interplay of experience and competence.
Part II: Identity
Part II focuses on identity. This shift of focus from practice to identity within the same analytic perspective has the following consequences:

  • It injects the notion of the person into the theory without having to posit an individual subject to start with.
  • It expands the domain of inquiry to social configurations other than those defined by practice and to mechanisms by which these configurations become contexts for identity formation.
  • It requires a theory of power by which to characterize the formation of identity in practice as the ability to negotiate an experience of meaning.
Part II thus complements Part I. It argues for a dual relation between practice and identity, and it addresses some limitations of the concept of community of practice by locating it within a broader framework. Our identities, even in the context of a specific practice, are not just a matter internal to that practice but also a matter of our position and the position of our communities in broader social structures.
6. Identity in practice:Chapter 6 shows the relation between identity and practice by rehearsing the argument of Part I. By revisiting the various characteristics of practice introduced in each chapter, I show how they can be construed as characteristics of identity. The result is a characterization of identity that inherits the richness and complexity of practice.
7. Identities of participation and non-participation:Chapter 7 introduces non-participation as a central aspect of the formation of identity. I argue that non-participation can take many forms-being an outsider, being a peripheral participant, or being marginalized-each with different implications for the resulting identities.
8. Modes of belonging:Chapter 8 extends the notion of belonging beyond local communities of practice. I distinguish between three modes of belonging: engagement, imagination, and alignment. I describe the basic features of each of these modes of belonging, the kind of work they require, and finally the various kinds of communities to which they give rise.
9. Identity as identification and negotiability:Chapter 9 discusses issues of belonging in terms of identification with certain communities and also in terms of negotiability-that is, in terms of our ability to shape the meanings produced in the context of these communities. I argue that the formation of communities inherently gives rise to "economies of meaning" in which various participants have various degrees of "ownership" of the meanings that define their communities. The dual processes of identification and negotiability make the notion of belonging a basis for talking at once about learning, identity, and power in social terms.
Learning communities:Coda II summarizes Part II by describing some basic features of what I call a learning community, whose practice it is to keep alive the creative tension between competence and experience.bbb
Epilogue: Design
By way of conclusion, I discuss issues of design and learning. First, I introduce a general framework to talk about design in terms of the kind of facilities it offers for learning. Then I apply this design framework in discussing two kinds of social design that involve learning in a crucial way: organizations and education.
10. A learning architecture:Chapter 10 outlines a skeletal "architecture" for learning derived from the argument of this book. It recasts the conceptual framework developed so far into a design framework, laying out basic questions that must be addressed and basic components that must be provided by a design for learning.
11. Organizations and their relation to practice:Chapter 12 argues that organizations can among other things be viewed as constellations of interconnected communities of practice. They form a learning architecture to the extent that the organizational design provides complementary facilities for engagement, imagination, and alignment.
12. Education and the formation of identities:Chapter 11 argues that education is about opening a field of possible identities that can be understood as actual trajectories of participation in practice. Again the infrastructures of engagement, imagination, and alignment are crucial in developing different aspects of identity formation.
There are many ways in which organizational and educational designs differ but both must provide institutional support for learning and, in this respect, they have much in common. In any discussion of design for learning, it is important to reiterate that communities of practice have been around for a very long time. They are as old as humankind, and existed long before we started to concern ourselves with systematic design for learning. Communities of practice already exist throughout our societies-inside and across organizations, schools, and families-in both realized and unrealized forms.
Communities of practice are thus not a novelty. They are not a new solution to existing problems; in fact, they are just as likely to have been involved in the development of these problems. In particular, they are not a design fad, a new kind of organizational unit or pedagogical device to be implemented.
Communities of practice are about content-about learning as a living experience of negotiating meaning -not about form. In this sense, they cannot be legislated into existence or defined by decree. They can be recognized, supported, encouraged, and nurtured, but they are not reified, designable units. Practice itself is not amenable to design. In other words, one can articulate patterns or define procedures, but neither the patterns nor the procedures produce the practice as it unfolds. One can design systems of accountability and policies for communities of practice to live by, but one cannot design the practices that will emerge in response to such institutional systems. One can design roles, but one cannot design the identities that will be constructed through these roles. One can design visions, but one cannot design the allegiance necessary to align energies behind those visions. One can produce affordances for the negotiation of meaning, but not meaning itself. One can design work processes but not work practices; one can design a curriculum but not learning. One can attempt to institutionalize a community of practice, but the community of practice itself will slip through the cracks and remain distinct from its institutionalization.
That does not meaning, however, that design is irrelevant. Communities of practice can be supported and they can be frustrated. Design is crucial, but it must be a dialogue among practices. It must be a design from the inside, not from the outside. Indeed, the relation of design to practice is always indirect. It takes place through the ongoing definition of their enterprise by the communities pursuing it. In other words, practice cannot be the result of design, but instead always constitutes a response to design.
The social perspective on learning presented in this book may be summarized succinctly by the following principles:
  • Learning is inherent in human nature:
    it is an ongoing and integral part of our lives, not a special kind of activity separable from the rest of our lives (Introduction).
  • Learning is first and foremost the ability to negotiate new meanings:
    it involves our whole person in a dynamic interplay of participation and reification. It is not reducible to its mechanics (information, skills, behavior) and focusing on the mechanics at the expense of meaning tends to render learning problematic (Chapter 1).
  • Learning creates emergent structures:
    it requires enough structure and continuity to accumulate experience and enough perturbation and discontinuity to continually renegotiate meaning. In this regard, communities of practice constitute elemental social learning structures (Chapter 3).
  • Learning is fundamentally experiential and fundamentally social:
    it involves our own experience of participation and reification as well as forms of competence defined in our communities (Chapter 2). In fact, learning can be defined as a realignment of experience and competence, whichever pulls the other. It is therefore impaired when the two are either too distant or too closely congruent to produce the necessary generative tension (Coda I).
  • Learning transforms our identities:
    it transforms our ability to participate in the world by changing all at once who we are, our practices, and our communities (Chapter 3).
  • Learning constitutes trajectories of participation:
    it builds personal histories in relation to the histories of our communities, thus connecting our past and our future in a process of individual and collective becoming (Chapters 3 and 6).
  • Learning means dealing with boundaries:
    it creates and bridges boundaries; it involves multimembership in the constitution of our identities, thus connecting-through the work of reconciliation-our multiple forms of participation as well as our various communities (Chapters 4 and 6).
  • Learning is a matter of social energy and power:it thrives on identification and depends on negotiability; it shapes and is shaped by evolving forms of membership and of ownership of meaning-structural relations that combine participation and non-participation in communities and economies of meaning (Chapters 7 and 9).
  • Learning is a matter of engagement:
    it depends on opportunities to contribute actively to the practices of communities that we value and that value us, to integrate their enterprise into our understanding of the world, and to make creative use of their respective repertoire (Chapters 2 and 8).
  • Learning is a matter of imagination:
    it depends on processes of orientation, reflection, and exploration to place our identities and practices in a broader context (Chapter 8).
  • Learning is a matter of alignment:
    it depends on our connection to frameworks of convergence, coordination, and conflict resolution that determine the social effectiveness of our actions (Chapter 8).
  • Learning involves an interplay between the local and the global:
    it takes place in practice, but it defines in a global context for its own locality. The creation of learning communities thus depends on a dynamic combination of engagement, imagination, and alignment to make this interplay between the local and the global an engine of new learning (Chapter 5, Coda II).
  • Learning cannot be designed:
    it can only be designed for. Its actual realization remains the property of the communities of practice that form in response to any design.                                                                                                                                                      [source http://www.ewenger.com/pub/pubCoPToC.html]

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