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Communities of Practice

Interested in connecting with your WCU colleagues? Hoping to meet others with similar teaching, learning, scholarship, or engagement interests? Join a Community of Practice (CoP).

Etienne Wenger summarizes Communities of Practice (CoP) as “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.” This learning that takes place is not necessarily intentional (Lave and Wenger).

Communities of Practice (CoP) enable participants to gain cross-disciplinary connections, scholarly advice, and insights from experienced peer faculty and staff members. CoP Groups are led by Associates who facilitate 6-15 faculty and staff members to develop a topic and related activities of interest during the semester. Groups meet as often as Associates or the group feel appropriate. Together, each group creates a community to learn about and support its topic.

One needs to distinguish between what is a CoP and what is not.

There are three required components of CoPs:

  1. There needs to be a domain. A CoP has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest; it’s not just a network of people or club of friends. Membership implies a commitment to the domain.
  2. There needs to be a community. A necessary component is that members of a specific domain interact and engage in shared activities, help each other, and share information with each other. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other.
  3. There needs to be a practice: The third requirement for a CoP is that the members are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources which can include stories, helpful tools, experiences, stories, ways of handling typical problems, etc. Informal conversations held by people of the same profession help people share and develop a set of cases and stories that can become a shared repertoire for their practice, whether they realize it or not.

For more information about joining or leading a CoP Group, please contact the Coulter Faculty Commons.


  1. Lave, J. (1991). Situating learning in communities of practice. Perspectives on socially shared cognition, 2, 63-82.
  2. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity.
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