Étienne Wenger

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Étienne Wenger
Etienne Wenger
Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Alma materUniversity of California, Irvine
Scientific career
ThesisToward a theory of cultural transparency: elements of a social discourse of the visible and the invisible (1990)

Étienne Charles Wenger (born 1952)[1] is an educational theorist and practitioner, best known for his formulation (with Jean Lave) of the theory of situated cognition and his more recent work in the field of communities of practice.[2][3]


Having grown up in the French-speaking parts of Switzerland,[1] Wenger achieved a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, in 1982. He then studied at the University of California, Irvine, in the United States, gaining an M.S. in Information and Computer Science in 1984 and a Ph.D. in the same subject area in 1990.[4] He currently lives in California, United States.


Wenger initially came upon the concept of communities of practice when he was approached by John Seely Brown, to join the Institute for Research of Learning. There Wenger worked with anthropologist Jean Lave, observing apprenticeships among traditional tailors in Africa. Through the study of these cases Lave and Wenger concluded that most learning does not take place with the master, it takes place among the apprentices.[5][6]

Wenger holds that learning is an inherently social process and that it cannot be separated from the social context in which it happens. Among his current engagements are Communities of Practice for Accounting and Auditing Education as well as Audit and Oversight for the World Bank Centre for Financial Reporting Reform.

One of the first people to observe and study communities of practice, Etienne Wenger's work is applied in various fields. According to Wenger, "Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly."[7]

Wenger earned a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence, and worked with the Institute for Research on Learning to help apply his concept of communities of practice to education. He is frequently called upon to speak and host workshops centered on his findings. To date he has published five books (see Bibliography section below).

He was an initiator of the now common research practice connecting learning to the technological and social aspects of communities.

Currently, Wenger is working on "Learning for a Small Planet." This research is focused on how students learn in the 21st century, and how the integration of technology is affecting education. It is also emphasizing the various domains of learning: "education, business, and civic" and how it is not each one separately, but rather the synthesis of them that enables effective learning.[7] It also goes on to discuss the identity of a learner, and is studying how one must be a participant in multiple groups to be able to form a full identity and learn successfully.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Wenger, Etienne (1987). Artificial Intelligence and Tutoring Systems: Computational and Cognitive Approaches to the Communication of Knowledge. Morgan Kaufmann Press. ISBN 978-0-934-61326-2.
  • Lave, Jean; Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42374-0.
  • Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66363-2.
  • Wenger, Etienne; McDermott, Richard; Snyder, William M. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice (Hardcover). Harvard Business Press; 1 edition. ISBN 978-1-57851-330-7.
  • Wenger, Etienne (2009). Digital Habitats. Portland: CPsquare. ISBN 978-0-521-66363-2.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Etienne Wenger, gourou suisse de la connaissance". L'Hebdo. Lausanne. 2003-09-25. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
  2. ^ Etienne C. Wenger CV, Biographical information.
  3. ^ Étude du processus de participation à une recherche Psyché - 2011 "Cela renvoie à ce que Jean Lave et Étienne Wenger (1990) appellent le ... Pour finir, Étienne Wenger décrit la structure des communautés de pratique (CoP) ..."
  4. ^ Etienne C. Wenger, Toward a theory of cultural transparency: Elements of a social discourse of the visible and the invisible. PhD thesis, University of California at Irvine, USA.
  5. ^ "Etienne Wenger." T+D 65.4 (2011): 96-97. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 Dec. 2011.
  6. ^ "Etienne Wenger". www.td.org. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  7. ^ a b Wenger, Etienne (January 2012). "Communities of practice: A brief introduction" (PDF). Retrieved December 23, 2015.

External links[edit]