Supporting communities of practice

These notes are part of a series for the book.

Hoadley, C. (2012) ‘Ch. 12: What is a Community of Practice and How Can We Support It?’ in Jonassen, D., and Land, S. (eds) (2012) Theoretical foundations of learning environments, 2nd ed.New York, Routledge.


  1. Defining communities of practice
    1. Feature-based definition of community of practice
    2. Defining communities of practice as a process
    3. Communities of practice versus other knowledge communities
  2. Technology and communities of practice
  3. Summary


History of the idea

The author starts with a history of the term “community of practice”. It’s commonly attributed to Lave and Wenger but there are earlier works and later developments as scholars moved from describing communities of practice to defining possible ways of using and nurturing them for organizational learning:


Some definitions of a community of practice focus on its features:


Some definitions of a community of practice focus on its processes:

Difference between this and other knowledge communities

Within knowledge-building communities:

Within communities of practice:

Andriessen (2005) further defined different communities by plotting them on two dimensions: how connected the members were as a group, and how institutional or formalized the group was. This helps us explore where communities of practice fit within the larger context of communities. If placed in quadrants, his taxonomy looks like this:

Andriessen's taxonomy of knowledge communities placed in a quadrant, as discussed below

See also: I think there’s an interesting overlap between Andriessen’s taxonomy and Dron and Anderson’s (2014) groups, nets, sets, and collectives.

Supporting communities of practice with information technology

Technology can support communities of practice in three areas:

Fostering community with information technology

Technology can foster community in four strategic areas (this is the C4P model):

See also

An analysis of how the idea of communities of practice have evolved over time: Cox, A. (2007) ‘Reproducing knowledge: Xerox and the story of knowledge management’, Knowledge Management Research and Practice, 5(1), 3-12.

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