Lave and Wenger's Concept of Communities of Practice and Its Contribution towards Understanding Workplace Learning In Contemporary Organisations: A Case Study of Organisations in the Malta Public Service
thesisposted on 16.08.2012 by Mario Rodgers
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
Lave and Wenger's CoPs concept projects learning as 'situated', occurring through and shaped by participative social interaction within CoPs, along a trajectory from legitimate peripheral participation to full participant position. Lave and Wenger advocate CoPs to be an appropriate vehicle for effective knowledge generation, re-creation and transfer. Contemporary organisations, inundated by pressures such as globalisation, rapid technology advances and an ever-growing knowledge economy, have shaped themselves into dynamic structures, as well as are continually evolving into borderless and multinational formats. Indeed, this has brought forth the crucial need for transforming companies into learning organisations, whilst endorsing effective knowledge generation and management. This research aims to see whether Lave and Wenger's concept of CoPs is present within contemporary organisations, and to what extent this reality is relevant and helpful towards our understanding of workplace learning in contemporary organisations. In order to achieve its aims, this study adopted a qualitative research approach, in the form of a case study involving Malta Public Service organisations, covering a wide spectrum of different and diverse service operations. Semi-structured interviews were used for data collection, whereas results were mainly analysed utilising grounded theory techniques. Research findings confirm the real presence of situated learning and CoPs. However, they expose that the CoPs concept was presented as 'too simplistic' by Lave and Wenger. Hence, this study shows how the concept should be moulded in order to reflect the evolving CoPs' formats, as well as human interaction complexities which do impact on the learning trajectory. Informed by research results, this study proposes an amended view of the CoPs concept, positing CoPs as the hub within learning organisations and acting as the ideal vehicles for nurturing expansive learning and knowledge generation and management, whilst insisting on strong leadership for the effective nurturing and operation of CoPs.