Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Communities of practice: a social discipline of learning

Keywords: communities of practice, social learning

Author: Dr. Etienne Wenger

Most institutions proceed from a similar set of assumptions: that learning depends on teaching, that books and classrooms are the locus of learning, and that the rest of life is application. What if we assumed that learning happens everywhere, that it is a natural part of life, and that if institutions have a role it is to support learning wherever it takes place? An important part of this shift in mindset is to recognize that the world of human knowledge is composed of a huge constellation of practices. The living communities that develop, share, and refine these practices then become a key element of learning. As we enter, engage with, and leave these communities, learning is a social journey as well as a cognitive process. Learning transforms both our participation and our identity. This perspective entails a social discipline of learning, which has relevance for a broad range of contexts in which learning is a concern - whether these are informal or involve a substantial design component. This workshop will give participants an opportunity to explore in more detail the points made by Dr Wenger in the morning keynote.


Date: Wednesday 23 January 2008, 3.30-4.30

Venue: Ochil Two

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).