McDonald, J. & Cater-Steel, A. (eds.) (2017) Communities of Practice: Facilitating Social Learning in Higher Education. Singapore: Springer.

Stephen Merry


The writing of this review began shortly before the UK 2017 general election when the campaign of the governing party emphasised the role of one individual, the prime minister, as a ‘strong and stable’ leader. This they contrasted with a ‘coalition of chaos’ that would result if opposition parties were able to gain control by working together. During the slogans and bald assertions that seem to be characteristic of any election campaign, the arrival of a well-evidenced academic tome of more than 600 pages was a welcome relief. McDonald and Carter-Steel is a collection of 28 chapters involving more than 70 authors who consider aspects of social learning practices within higher education; a topic which has been increasingly recognised as important since the seminal work of Lave and Wenger (1991). With so many authors, might the book itself be a ‘coalition of chaos’, or might it demonstrate that the social ‘chaos’ of informal communities of practice represents a valuable component of learning within higher education where the dominant perception often involves individual learning of experts’ ‘strong and stable’ messages? Hence, this book was read with interest.

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