In July, I participated in an inspiring 4-day retreat led by Bev Trayner and Etienne Wenger – social learning theorists and consultants who have written extensively about communities of practice and how cultivation of knowledge is a group-mediated activity. Each morning at the retreat we explored their current thinking about social learning, enjoying much time for discussion of the ideas as a group. One model that particularly resonated with me was that of the knowledge landscape.
In this metaphor, communities of practice can be imagined as hills or mountains of expertise within a landscape. The mountains can vary in height, depending on the amount of knowledge contained, and the slope of the mountain indicates the gradient of learning or the curriculum that a new member of the community would need to follow in order to progress up the mountain to expert level. A steep slope indicates that it’s harder to master the knowledge in that community, whereas a more gentle gradient allows for working more leisurely within the learner’s comfort zone.