A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. Communities of practice often focus on sharing best practices and creating new knowledge to advance a domain of professional practice. Interaction on an ongoing basis is an important part of this. Many communities of practice rely on face-to-face meetings as well as web-based collaborative environments to communicate, connect, and conduct community activities. (www.communityofpractice.ca)
Communities of practice are not new phenomena: this type of learning has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling. The idea is rooted in American pragmatism, especially C. S. Peirce’s concept of the “community of inquiry” (Shields 2003), but also John Dewey’s principle of learning through occupation (Wallace 2007).
- A community of practice is often organically created, with as many objectives as members of that community.
- Community membership is defined by the knowledge of the members.
- CoP membership changes and members may take on new roles within the community as interests and needs arise.
- A community of practice can exist as long as the members believe they have something to contribute to it, or gain from it.