Learning in and across landscapes of practice

Learning in and across landscapes of practice – this is the title of a talk that Etienne Wenger will give at Lancaster University, UK, next Tuesday5th April, between 15.00 and 16.45 GMT.

Here is Etienne’s abstract for the talk.

The human world can be viewed as a huge collection of communities of practice-some very prominent and recognized, others hardly visible. Our learning can then be understood as a trajectory through this landscape of practices: entering some communities, being invited or rejected, remaining visitors, crossing boundaries, being stuck, and moving on. In such a landscape, both the core of communities of practice and their boundaries offer opportunities for learning. Learning is not merely the acquisition of a body of knowledge, but a journey of the self. Achieving a high level of “knowledgeability” is a matter of negotiating a productive identity with respect to the various practices that constitute this landscape.

The event has proved so popular, that not only has the University had to book a second room to hold all those who wish to attend the event in person, but also the event will be live streamed for those who wish to attend virtually. Here is the link:


If you are watching the event remotely and wish to ask questions, you are invited to  email them to s.armitage@lancaster.ac.uk or via twitter (using the hashtag #lumsforum), although the University understandably cannot guarantee that you question will be raised.

7 thoughts on “Learning in and across landscapes of practice

  1. Scott Johnson April 3, 2011 / 6:02 am

    Thanks Jenny,

    Our department is just forming itself into a community. After being physically spread all over the campus, we’ve been brought together just in time for our coordinator to quit, our work load to triple, our directors to be narrowed down to 3 dean level operatives who are clueless as to what we do, and some person we expect is our boss who comes around with questions about upholstery colours on the chairs we are to be supplied to give our office an “air of professionalism.”

    Before the rest of us quit it would be nice to have a kick at forming a community of practice. No one in administration actually knows what we do anyway so this vacuum might be the perfect opportunity to reclaim the roles we were hired to perform and the practices we have developed for working together.

    Will the talk be recorded?

  2. jennymackness April 3, 2011 / 8:40 am

    Hi Scott – I think the talk will be recorded, but I don’t work at Lancaster University, so I don’t know – and it could take a while for the link to be posted.

    Best of luck with your community of practice. I wondered if this link would be of any help – http://www.bucops.bham.ac.uk/


  3. Scott Johnson April 3, 2011 / 5:33 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I’ll check the Lancaster University website for more information.

    Will start with “Knowing in Community” by Richard McDermott referenced at the Birmingham University site you mentioned. Our small department has suffered from being subject to the “guidance” of too many bosses and it’s time build something more resilient that won’t shatter every time it is kicked.

    Be interesting to do a study on how power distributes in the more open environment our fearless leaders insist will be the future when we’ve already been in “the future” for years before them? My employer doesn’t understand my job, how I do it or “where” the results come from when I do research. Last year I was asked to write a job description of what I did and was then told I didn’t (by institution standards) “qualify” for my own job.

    Hierarchies are breaking down all over yet historically when the crunch comes there are always people around who can function in the new environment as if they’d been there waiting for everyone else. Communities of Practice might account for this ready-before-it’s-called-for phenomenon?

    Oh, and before I forget, thanks for your history of Connectivism blog. I thought it stirred up a lot of assumptions on how we “know” things or how we allow ourselves to even consider someone’s ideas, let alone validate them. A class on something that hasn’t been decided yet is a pretty out of the ordinary idea in itself.

  4. jennymackness April 3, 2011 / 7:28 pm

    Hi Scott – In 2009 I heard Etienne speak about vertical and horizontal accountability in institutions – at the iPed Conference in Coventry UK. Unfortunately there is not a recording of his talk on their website.

    have had a bit of a hunt round – and this is a topic that Etienne has been talking about quite a bit – see Slide 7 in this presentation – http://tinyurl.com/3glsq6u or this blogpost – http://idcharred.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/etienne-wenger-at-the-seda-conference/

    This discussion of tensions between vertical and horizontal may be relevant to your situation. It will be interesting to see whether Etienne discusses this on Tuesday.


  5. Scott Johnson April 4, 2011 / 2:03 am

    Hi Jenny,

    It’s a very interesting time to be working where I do and the mention of vertical forces is very relevant.


  6. Heli Nurmi April 5, 2011 / 5:23 pm

    Thanks for the link, Jenny!

    I listened to the lecture and enjoyed. The century of identity, hmmm

  7. jennymackness April 5, 2011 / 6:55 pm

    Hi Heli – it’s great to know that I didn’t post the link in vain and that you enjoyed the lecture. It was certainly well attended at Lancaster. I’m now thinking it all through.


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