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Table 1 Description of communities of practice research synthesis project

From: Evolution of Wenger's concept of community of practice

Objectives: • To examine how CoPs were defined and used in the business and health sectors.
  • To evaluate the evidence of CoPs in the health sector.
Search strategy: • We searched the literature published between 1991 and 2005.
  • Database search: Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, HealthSTAR, ERIC, ECONLIT, AMED, and ProQuest.
  • Hand-searched Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, Medical Education, and Harvard Business Review.
Eligibility criteria • Primary studies that involved groups, teams, or learning environments that were either labelled as CoPs or were developed using CoP and/or other related concepts (e.g., situated learning, legitimate peripheral learning) as the guiding framework.
Synthesis approach: • Meta-narrative approach
      The research synthesis focused on:
  ▪ The authors' interpretations of the CoP concept.
  ▪ The key characteristics of CoP groups.
  ▪ The common elements of CoP groups.
  • Meta-analysis to assess the effectiveness of CoPs in the health sector.
Search results: • 1421 articles were obtained; of those, we found 13 primary studies from the health sector and 18 from the business sector.
Key findings: • The structure of CoP groups varied greatly, ranging from voluntary informal networks to work-supported formal education sessions, and from apprentice training to multidisciplinary, multi-site project teams.
  • Four characteristics were identified from CoP groups:
      CoP members interact with each other in formal and informal settings.
      CoP members share knowledge with each other.
      CoP members collaborate with each other to create new knowledge.
      CoP groups foster the development of a shared-identity among members.
  • These characteristics, however, were not consistently present in all CoPs.
  • There was a lack of clarity in the responsibilities of CoP facilitators and how power dynamics should be handled within a CoP group.
  • We were unable to identify any studies that used experimental, quasi-experimental, or observational designs, and evaluated CoPs for improving health professional performance, health care organizational performance, professional mentoring, and patient outcome. Therefore, it was not possible to conduct a meta-analysis.
  1. *CoPs = Communities of practice