Social construction of knowledge in professional communities of practice: Tales in courtrooms
Noriko Hara, Indiana University, United States
Indiana University . Awarded
In the decade of the 90s, it has been necessary to consider social and cultural aspects of learning as a way to foster organizational learning. To facilitate designing effective learning environments, this study calls attention to the importance of informal learning in the training of professionals. The study examines how people share and construct their knowledge in two Public Defender's Offices. Despite strong interests among practitioners and scholars, the study of organizational learning is short of empirical research. Drawing on theories from situated cognition and organizational learning, the study investigates how people share their knowledge and create a shared meaning in workplaces. As a process of sharing knowledge, people form “communities-of-practice.” Communities-of-practice are informal networks that support a group of professional practitioners to develop a shared meaning and engage in knowledge building among the members.
Using an ethnographic method, this study reveals the phenomena of organizational learning in communities-of-practice. In addition, the role of information technology (IT) to support learning is examined in this study. The purpose of the study is threefold. The first aim is to explore and develop a better understanding of communities-of-practice in two Public Defender's Offices. The second aim is to generate a local theory of social construction of knowledge in professional communities-of-practice. The third aim is to examine the role of IT to support work practices and learning.
This thesis concludes with a framework of positive characteristics that foster organizational learning and negative characteristics that impede the process, and six attributes of communities of practice that serve as a scaffolding for organizational learning. The six key attributes of communities of practice are: (1) a group of professionals; (2) development of a shared meaning; (3) informal network; (4) supportive culture-trust; (5) engagement in knowledge building; and (6) individuals' negotiation and development of professional identities.
Hara, N. Social construction of knowledge in professional communities of practice: Tales in courtrooms. Ph.D. thesis, Indiana University.
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