Community of practice (CoP), according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lavee and Etienne Wenger, is a term that describes a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the member's common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. However, as Wenger stresses, not everything called a community is a community of practice. A neighborhood for instance, is often called a community, but is usually not a community of practice. Therefore, three characteristics are crucial:
- Domain - a domain of knowledge creates common ground, inspires members to participate, guides their learning and gives meaning to their actions.
- Community - the notion of a community creates the social fabric for that learning. A strong community fosters interactions and encourages a willingness to share ideas.
- Practice - that while the domain provides the general area of interest for the community, the practice is the specific focus around which the community develops, shares and maintains its core of knowledge.
This important concept has found a number of practical applications in different fields such as education which is key for teachers and educators who want to improve and integrate ICTs in the classroom. The first applications of communities of practice regarding education have been in teacher training and in providing isolated administrators with access to colleagues. There is a wave of interest in these peer-to-peer professional-development activities.
Based on the previous information, there have been efforts in the educational field to create and apply this concept to improve the way languages, for example are taught. This is an example of a Community of Practice:
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