What Are Communities of Practice in Early Childhood Education

What Are Communities of Practice in Early Childhood Education

Did you know that the NHSA is a leading community of practice in education?

What is a community of practice in education? Community of Practice (CoP) is a term used by educators to describe groups of people who share a common interest and come together to learn from each other. There are many different types of CoPs, but they all have some common elements.

In this blog post, we will explore the concept of community of practice and highlight some features of the U.S. Department of Education Communities of Practice. 

The Concept of Community of Practice

The term "community of practice" was first coined by cognitive anthropologist Jean Lave and educational theorist Etienne Wenger. Since then, the concept has been adopted by a variety of disciplines, including:

  • Sociology
  • Education
  • Business
  • Information technology

At its core, a community of practice is a group of people who share a common interest or goal and who interact regularly in order to improve their skills and knowledge.

In recent years, the rise of online communities has made it possible for people with shared interests to connect regardless of geography. As a result, communities of practice are no longer limited to face-to-face interactions; they can now also take place online.

Elements of a Community of Practice in Education

Communities of practice typically have three defining elements: a domain of interest, a shared practice, and a community of learners.

The domain of interest is the subject matter that binds the community together. It can be anything from gardening to software development to parenting.

The shared practice is the activity that members of the community engage in to further their understanding of the domain. This could be attending:

  • Workshops
  • Exchanging tips online
  • Talking to one another about their experiences

The community of learners is the group of people who are involved in the shared practice. They may not all be experts in the domain, but they are all committed to learning more about it.

Communities of practice provide members with opportunities to learn from one another and to develop a deeper understanding of the shared domain. In many cases, they also serve as support systems, providing a sense of belonging and social connection within the educational institution.

Professional Learning Materials

Professional learning materials are an essential element of any successful Community of Practice (CoP). By providing educators with a common resource base, CoPs can facilitate the sharing of best practices and promote collaboration.

In addition, professional learning materials can help CoPs to remain focused on their goals and objectives.

In a community of practice example, a CoP dedicated to improving math instruction might use professional learning materials to identify and implement new instructional strategies. 

Online Learning Modules

Some examples of communities of practice include:

  • Medical professionals
  • Educators
  • Lawyers
  • Software developers

Online learning modules are one way for members of a community of practice to learn from one another. These modules can be used to provide an overview of:

  • A topic
  • Introduce new concepts
  • Help members brush up on their skills


CoPs can be found in many different fields, from online forums for parents of children with autism to groups of doctors who use shared medical records.

For a community to be considered a practice, it must have some sort of shared goal or purpose. This could be something as simple as exchanging information or something more complex like developing new products or services.

One way that CoPs achieve these goals is by publishing their work. This could be in the form of:

  • Academic papers
  • Books
  • Blog posts

By sharing their work, members of a CoP can learn from each other and develop new ideas. In addition, publications help to create a sense of identity for a CoP and can attract new members.

While publications are not essential for all CoPs, they can play an important role in helping the community achieve its goals.

For example, publications can help early childhood educators share their ideas with a wider audience and can attract new members who can contribute fresh perspectives.

In addition, publications can help to create a sense of identity for a CoP and can provide valuable feedback that can help the community improve its practices.

Live Events

One key element of successful communities of practice is regular live events. These events provide an opportunity for members to:

  • Connect in person
  • Exchange new ideas
  • Build relationships

Live events also help to create a sense of cohesion and identity within the community and in early childhood education between teachers, parents, and guardians.

An Action Research Project

While the term “community of practice” is often used in professional communities, such as doctors or lawyers, it can also be applied to childhood education.

In early childhood education, a community of practice may be defined as a group of individuals who share a common interest in the field of early childhood education and who work together to improve their practice.

Action research projects are one way that members of a community of practice can learn from one another. These projects involve:

  • Identifying a problem or area of interest
  • Researching to find a solution
  • Implementing the solution
  • Evaluating the results

Action research projects can help members of a community of practice to:

  • Share their expertise
  • Gain new insights into their practice
  • Develop new solutions to problems

Online Forums

Online forums provide a place for members of a community of practice to connect and exchange ideas. These forums can be used to:

  • Ask questions
  • Share resources
  • Give and receive feedback

While online forums can be helpful, they should not be the only way that members of a community of practice interact with one another. For a community of practice to be successful, members must also interact in person regularly.

U.S. Department of Education Communities of Practice

The U.S. Department of Education has several communities of practice that focus on different topics related to education. These communities of practice provide educators with an opportunity to

  • Share resources
  • Learn from each other
  • Improve their practices

Some of the department’s most popular communities of practice include:

  • Evidence-Based Interventions community
  • Kindergarten community
  • Toward an Equitable Education community

Each of these communities has its own goals, resources, and forums where members can interact with each other. However, all of the department’s communities of practice share one common goal: to improve education for all students.

Are You an Early Childhood Educator?

If you’re an early childhood educator, then you’re already a member of a community of practice! If you are looking to vamp up your community of practice in education, we suggest you schedule a demo today!

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