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COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE IN HIGHER EDUCATION

INTRODUCTION

Academic universities and universities of professional education are currently in the midst of modernising their education to better suit the demands of present and future students. Higher education is becoming more vocational and occupationally-orientated: there is more and more interest in (learning) the application of theories and concepts. This requires a new approach in the coaching of learning processes.

WHAT IS A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE?

A CoP is a group of people who share a (great) interest in a certain subject or theme. They meet to exchange, develop and make explicit knowledge, which arises from questions and problems they have (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002). CoPs can be initiated by individual staff members, experts or by teams (for example, after completion of a project) and exist thanks to the ‘give and take’ attitude of the participants.

COP’S AND THEIR BENEFITS

Communities ought to have a place in every leaming organisation. Organisations that support learning score highly on two dimensions (Dankbaar & Oprins, 2002):

  1. Organisational dimension: the extent to which the structure and culture of the organisation support and stimulate leaming, for example via a clear mission through which learning-processes gain a focus, management offering solid support for methods such as coaching and reflection, being open-minded towards new ideas.
  2. Personal dimension: the extent to which staff are self-confident, motivated and able to leam. This can be seen in an open-minded attitude and a willingness to leam.

CONCLUSION: COPS AS SEEN BY PROFESSIONAL AND ORGANISATION

Above we provided a description of what Communities of Practice are, what benefits they bring for individual and educational organisation and which success-factors can improve learning and working in communities. Communities of Practice can play an important role in the exchange, development and making explicit of new knowledge.

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