Community of Practice


Self-maintenance of an expertise-based collective

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … sum of situation-relevant expertise
  • Knowing is … social co-participation
  • Learner is … an apprentice (individual) in/and an occupation (collective)
  • Learning is … apprenticing
  • Teaching is … mentoring




Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of active practitioners of an occupation that (1) involves expertise (i.e., learned and practiced skills and/or knowledge) and (2) has processes for sharing information and sequencing experiences in ways that afford members opportunities to develop personally and professionally.


See Situated Learning.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Jean Lave; Etienne Wenger

Status as a Theory of Learning

CoP is not a theory of learning. It is, rather, an elaboration of one aspect of Situated Learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

While the discourse surrounding CoP is more descriptive than prescriptive, it does offer advice that could be considered pedagogical in nature, especially around group dynamics, formal and informal processes, and strategies for formatting inductions (such as apprenticeships).

Status as a Scientific Theory

By virtue of its affiliation with Situated Cognition, CoP meets some of the requirements of a scientific theory. However, because it is more descriptive than prescriptive, it is difficult concept to “test” or prove.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Community of Practice” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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