TEL Communities

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TEL Communities
Definitions: Theoretical background relevant to technology facilitated social learning
Research evidence: Systematic literature reviews on the theme of technology facilitated social learning

Definition of Communities of Practice

The fundamental idea of Communities of Practice (CoPs) is that learning is ongoing and social rather than discrete and individual. This idea has its origins in social learning theory, which explores how people learn in a social setting (Bandura 1977). Lave and Wenger’s model of situated learning (1991) took this concept a stage further by considering the impact of the structural framework in which the social learning takes place. They suggested that learning takes place ‘in situ’ through active social participation in the environment of the Community of Practice (CoP) (Wenger, 1998). Learners connect prior knowledge to new contexts within authentic social and physical settings.

Situated Learning Image

CoPs are also rooted in constructivist ideas, which place learners in control of their learning journeys and which emphasise that knowledge is co-constructed (Oliver and Herrington, 2000). Recognising the link between learning and performance, constructivist approaches typically seek to replicate realistic problem situations and involve learners developing problem-solving skills through social interdependence and shared goals, which together encourage their ownership over the learning process.

Read more about communities of practice here: Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice and here:

A Critical Review of the Use of Wenger's Community of Practice (CoP) Theoretical Framework in Online and Blended Learning Research, 2000-2014


Bandura, A. (1977) Social Learning Theory, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press, 1991.

Oliver, R. and Herrington, J. (2000). Using situated learning as a design strategy for Web-based learning. Instructional and cognitive impacts of web-based education. Pp.178-191.

Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge university press.