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I am an independent thinker, researcher, consultant, author, and speaker. I am mostly known for my work on communities of practice, though I consider myself a social learning theorist more generally. Theoretically, my work focuses on social learning systems. I am trying to understand the connection between knowledge, community, learning, and identity. The basic idea is that human knowing is fundamentally a social act. This simple observation has profound implications for the way we think of and attempt to support learning. Practically, these ideas are helping people who face all sorts of challenges, such as:

 

  • design more effective knowledge-oriented organizations
  • create learning systems across organizations
  • improve education and lifelong learning
  • rethink the role of professional associations
  • design a world in which people can reach their full potential

I have been making a living helping people and organizations apply these ideas. I do consulting, workshops, and public speaking.

How I got here

I started my career working as as a French teacher for many years first in Hong Kong and later in Denver. There I was also an assistant principal for two years. Then I got interested in the use of computer in education. I got a B.S. in computer science from the university of Geneva and a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence at the University of California at Irvine, focusing on intelligent tutoring systems. In 1987 I joined the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL), where I started to work with anthropologist Jean Lave on the development of a new learning theory centered on the concept of community of practice. Since 1997, I have been helping organizations develop and implement social learning strategies based on communities of practice. I have also kept developing the theory, working with numerous universities, in particular at the University of Manchester, UK, where I am a visiting professor. I now continue both the theoretical and the practical dimensions of this work with my spouse and partner, Beverly Wenger-Trayner.

Bios of different lengths

 

Full CV >>

 

Here are bios of various lengths for use in announcements, programs, and brochures. Feel free to pick, mix, and match.

General-purpose bio (213 words)

Etienne Wenger-Trayner is a globally recognized thought leader in the field of social learning theory, communities of practice, and their application to organizations. He has authored and co-authored seminal articles and books on the topic, including Situated Learning, where the term “community of practice” was coined; Communities of Practice: learning, meaning, and identity, where he lays out a theory of learning based on the concept; Cultivating Communities of Practice: a guide to managing knowledge, addressed to practitioners in organizations who want to base their knowledge strategy on communities of practice; and Digital Habitats, which tackles issues related to the use of technology. Etienne’s work is influencing both theory and practice in a wide range of disciplines. Cultivating communities of practice is recognized as a key component of a learning strategy in a rapidly growing number of organizations across private and public sectors, including business, government, international development, healthcare, and education. Etienne helps organizations apply his ideas through consulting, public speaking, and workshops. He is also active in the academic sphere. He regularly speaks at conferences, conducts seminars, and is a visiting professor at the universities of Manchester and Aalborg. He recently received an honorary doctorate from the university of Brighton.


Shorter bio (150 words)

Etienne Wenger-Trayner is a globally recognized thought leader in the field of communities of practice, who was featured by Training Magazine in their “A new Breed of Visionaries” series. A pioneer of the “communities of practice” research, he is author and co-author of seminal articles and books on the topic, including Situated Learning, where the term was coined, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, where he lays out a theory of learning based on the concept of communities of practice, Cultivating Communities of Practice: a Guide to Managing Knowledge, addressed to practitioners in organizations, and Digital Habitats dealing with issues related to technology. His work as researcher, author, and consultant has influenced both thinking and practice in a wide variety of fields, including business, education, government, and social theory.


Even shorter bio (100 words)

Etienne Wenger-Trayner is a global thought leader in the field of communities of practice and social learning systems. He is the author and co-author of seminal books on communities of practice, including Situated Learning, where the term was coined, Communities of Practice: learning, meaning, and identity, where he lays out a theory of learning based on the concept, Cultivating Communities of Practice, addressed to practitioners in organizations who want to base their knowledge strategy on communities of practice, and Digital Habitats on technology for communities. Etienne helps organizations in all sectors apply these ideas through consulting, public speaking, teaching, and research.


Versions of mini-bios

Not in any order or with any preference. Choose the one that best matches your needs.

Version 1

Etienne Wenger-Trayner is an independent researcher, consultant, author, and speaker. He has published seminal books on learning and communities of practice. His work has influenced both theory and practice in many fields, including education, business, government, and the non-profit sector.

Version 2

Etienne Wenger-Trayner is an independent author, practitioner, and thought leader in the field of social learning theory and its application in various sectors, including business, government, international development, healthcare, and education. He is best known for his work on communities of practice and has authored and co-authored seminal books on the topic. He pursues this inquiry through writing, consulting, keynotes, workshops, and visiting positions in universities.

Version 3

Etienne Wenger-Trayner is a thought leader and consultant in the field of learning systems. He is the author and co-author of seminal books on communities of practice, including Situated Learning, where the term was coined, Communities of Practice: learning, meaning, and identity, where he lays out a theory of learning based on the concept, Cultivating Communities of Practice, addressed to practitioners in organizations who want to base their knowledge strategy on communities of practice, and Digital Habitats, on technology and communities.

Version 4

Etienne Wenger-Trayner, Ph.D., researcher, author, and consultant, is a recognized pioneer and thought leader in the field of communities of practice and social learning theory. He is the author and co-author of Situated Learning, where the perspective was introduced, Communities of Practice, which lays out the learning theory, Cultivating Communities of Practice, for practitioners in organizations, and Digital Habitats, on technology for communities.


Photos

Click on the thumbnail to bring up the full photo is JPEG format.

Informal

14-10 Etienne Wenger-Trayner  

Formal

Books

>> For a fully annotated list of books, see our book page.

 


Learning in landscapes of practice
boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning

Etienne Wenger-Trayner, Mark Fenton O’Creevy, Steven Hutchinson, Chris Kubiak, Beverly Wenger-Trayner

Routledge, 2014

Digital habitats
stewarding technology for communities

Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, John Smith

CPsquare Press, 2009

Cultivating communities of practice
a guide to managing knowledge

Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, William Snyder

Harvard Business School Press, 2002

Communities of practice
learning, meaning, and identity

Etienne Wenger

Cambridge University Press, 1998

Situated learning
legitimate peripheral participation

Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger

Cambridge University Press, 1991

Artificial intelligence and tutoring systems
computational and cognitive approaches to the communication of knowledge

Etienne Wenger

Morgan Kaufmann Press, 1987 (out of print)


Interviews on video

Interview with Branlee Underhill of the Project Management Institute, 2009 Watch on youtube
At the EQUAL conference “Powering the Future” in Lisbon, 2009 Watch on youtube
At the University of Manchester for the seminar on Social theories of Learning I co-teach there, 2010. Watch on the university’s website

 

Published interviews

Interview with Seth Kahan for the Journal of Association Leadership, 2004 Open the PDF

Talks about theory

Talk on “learning in landscapes of practice” at the University of Brighton in 2013 Watch on youtube

 

Talks about learning in organizations

Keynote at KM Singapore, 2009 Watch on vimeo

Things you wouldn’t find in a bio


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