Books Resources

Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice

Chris Blackmore (Editor)
2010, 1st edition
Springer, London
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-84996-133-2
244 pages

Book description

Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice is a collection of classical and contemporary writing associated with learning and systemic change in contexts ranging from cities, to rural development to education to nursing to water management to public policy. It is likely to be of interest to anyone trying to understand how to think systemically and to act and interact effectively in situations experienced as complex, messy and changing. While mainly concerned with professional praxis, where theory and practice inform each other, there is much here that can apply at a personal level.

This book offers conceptual tools and suggestions for new ways of being and acting in the world in relation to each other, that arise from both old and new understandings of communities, learning and systems. Starting with twentieth century insights into social learning, learning systems and appreciative systems from Donald Schön and Sir Geoffrey Vickers, the book goes on to consider the contemporary traditions of critical social learning systems and communities of practice, pioneered by Richard Bawden and Etienne Wenger and their colleagues. A synthesis of the ideas raised, written by the editor, concludes this reader. The theory and practice of social learning systems and communities of practice appear to have much to offer in influencing and managing systemic change for a better world.

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter Pages
    pp.I-XV PDF
  2. Early Traditions of Social Learning Systems
    1. Front Matter
      pp.1-3 PDF
    2. Government as a Learning System
      Donald Schön
    3. Insights into Appreciation and Learning Systems
      Geoffrey Vickers
  3. Critical Social Learning Systems – The Hawkesbury Tradition
    1. Front Matter
      pp.35-37 PDF
    2. The Community Challenge: The Learning Response
      Richard Bawden
    3. Sustainability, Social Learning and the Democratic Imperative: Lessons from the Australian Landcare Movement
      Jim Woodhill
    4. Traditions of Understanding: Language, Dialogue and Experience
      Ray Ison
    5. Messy Issues, Worldviews and Systemic Competencies Richard Bawden
  4. Communities of Practice
    1. Front Matter
      pp.103-105 PDF
    2. Our World as a Learning System: A Communities-of-Practice Approach
      William M. Snyder, Etienne Wenger
      pp.107-124 PDF
    3. Conceptual Tools for CoPs as Social Learning Systems: Boundaries, Identity, Trajectories and Participation
      Etienne Wenger
    4. Learning Nursing in the Workplace Community: The Generation of Professional Capital
      Mary Gobbi
    5. Graduate Professional Education from a Community of Practice Perspective: The Role of Social and Technical Networking
      Linda G. Polin
    6. Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems: the Career of a Concept
      Etienne Wenger
  5. Synthesis
    1. Front Matter
      p.199 PDF
    2. Managing Systemic Change: Future Roles for Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice?
      Chris Blackmore
  6. Back Matter


Chris Blackmore is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental and Development Systems at the Open University. She develops open learning courses in systems and in environmental decision making at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her main research area, in which she has a range of publications, is in learning systems and communities of practice for environmental decision making, including issues of social learning, systems thinking, systemic change, sustainability and responsibility.

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