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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Jonathan Tummons

Tummons, J. (2014). Learning architectures and communities of practice in higher education. In Theory and Method in Higher Education Research II. Huisman, J. & Tight, M. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. 121-139.

Author(s) from Durham


There is considerable variety in the use and citation of Wenger’s framework of communities of practice in educational research. In some cases, citations and references to Wenger’s work are superficial and lack meaningful theoretical application. In others, citations and use of Wenger’s work are critical and insightful, thoughtfully applying Wenger’s framework to a range of educational settings. The effect of these variable uses is a conceptual slippage that leads to the framework being misapplied, misunderstood and over-simplified. In this chapter I foreground the under-used idea of learning architectures. A learning architecture consists of an assemblage of components that may allow learning to take place. Such an assemblage might consist of a place (rooms, workshops, facilities), tools and equipment (textbooks, materials, handbooks, reading lists) and activities that require and encourage mutual engagement (seminars, tutorials, group presentations). In this chapter, drawing on previously published ethnographic research, one teacher-training course is used to model a learning architecture approach. At the same time, the chapter introduces and resolves one of the more contested aspects of Wenger’s framework, namely the position of pedagogy and assessment within a community of practice.