The term communities of practice (CoPs) has been coined by Lave and Wenger (1991) during their quests on apprenticeship from 1988. They considered some studies carried on in very different backgrounds and kinds of culture such as those of Maya midwives in Yucatan, Vai, and Gola tailors in Liberia, U.S. Navy boatswains’ drill-grounds, butchers of some American supermarkets, and among the members of Alcoholics Anonymous Association. The common denominator of these studies that has appeared relevant to Lave and Wenger is the presence of learning mechanisms not surveyed before by others scholars and not connected with the direct interaction between apprentice and master, but with the participation to a practice shared with other actors such as other apprentices, masters and journeyfolks.
A Training Experience On Communities Of Practice
In the research work of LAOC (Laboratory of Organizational Learning and Communication), coordinated by Professor Giuditta Alessandrini from University of Roma Tre, has been experimented a specific training on CoPs during last three academic years. That was possible thanks to the starting up of a Community of Practice among people attending the distance Master GESCOM (Knowledge Management and Development in Human Resources) directed by Prof. Giuditta Alessandrini. The activity, coordinated by Prof. Giovanni Rosso, expert in Pedagogy of Work and researcher at the Regional Institute of Educational Research in Latium, has been composed of several phases according to a methodology (Wenger, Smith, & Stuckey, 2005) outlined by Etienne Wenger, one of the most important experts in this field.
The first phase mainly aimed at creating the community and giving rise to identities and sense of ownership. In fact a community is not a community of practice without the following three features (Wenger, 2001):
Key Terms in this Chapter
Natural Semantics: Representations without the use of symbols.
River Delta: A low, watery land formed at the mouth of a river. It is formed from the silt, sand and small rocks that flow downstream in the river and are deposited in the delta.
SOLO (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes): Taxonomy proposed by Biggs and Collis (1982) that classifies students’ understanding in five hierarchical levels. SOLO taxonomy is used for the qualitative analysis of empirical data.
Didactic Transformation: The transformation of high level abstraction symbolic codes used for the description of scientific models, in a way that optimizes their comprehension possibilities in the educational process.
Model: A physical or ideal system created to represent a physical or ideal system at certain level.
Simulation: The representation of an object, a natural or social phenomenon by software, where the user may manipulate conditions and parameters for study purposes. A simulation causes the machine to respond mathematically to data and changing conditions as if it (the machine) was the same object or phenomenon.
Optical Hermeneutic Experimentation: Visualization based on modelling and simulation processes by contrast to artistic representation.
Visualization: Construction of a visual image in the mind. A graphical representation of data and concepts.