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Forming Communities of Practice in Higher Education: A Theoretical Perspective

Maria Jakovljevic
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Maria Jakovljevic: University of South Africa, South Africa

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Abstract: Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. The current problem is that there is no specific guidance to form communities of practice (CoP) in higher educational institutions to guide learners’ practical and theoretical knowledge and learning experiences. This comparative action research study will investigate, explore and describe ways of developing learning communities at institutions of higher education in South Africa and Europe, as well as determine the feasibility of doing so. In this research project entitled ‘Women in research’ the team of researchers who are predominantly women will focus on how learner learning can be stimulated through learning in communities of practice. Communities of practice recognise the diverse needs of the increasing numbers of learners entering university with different academic and cultural backgrounds and with varying social expectations and experiences. This study consists of six phases: developing a theoretical framework for communities of practice; exploring preliminary learners’ attitudes toward communities of practice; forming pilot communities of practice; evaluating pilot communities of practice groups; implementing action research to pilot communities of practice; and applying the communities of practice model to other groups. The aim of this paper is to highlight phase one of the study, that of developing a theoretical framework for communities of practice. This paper also aims to derive criteria for judging the communities of practice in terms of the facilitation of innovative knowledge sharing in the higher educational environment. This paper takes the form of a literature study to determine theoretical constructs and those that are most suitable to shape a framework to support communities of practice. A significant finding of this study is fifteen criteria for evaluating communities of practice.

Keywords: communities of practice; communities of practicemodel; communities of practice theoretical constructs; higher education; action research; knowledge sharing; online learning; entrepreneurial initiative (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013
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