Journal Article

The Role of Virtual Communities of Practice in Supporting Collaborative Learning among Social Workers

Patricia G. Cook-Craig and Yekoutiel Sabah

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 4, pages 725-739
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
The Role of Virtual Communities of Practice in Supporting Collaborative Learning among Social Workers

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The advent of technology has been instrumental in creating access for social workers to research on evidence-based interventions. However, for many social problems there remains a gap in the availability of proven evidence-based strategies (Rosen et al., 1999). For social workers facing problems for which there is a lack of research evidence, the solution is to develop practice innovations that can be evaluated (Sabah and Cook-Craig, 2008a, b). Virtual communities of practice (VCoP's) are a promising venue for housing reviews of research evidence and engaging social workers to share tacit knowledge and invent practice innovations.

During the past two years, the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs has developed eighteen VCoP's social work practitioners. Those communities are designed to enable practitioners to review and use multiple sources of professional relevant knowledge in user-friendly repositories and to facilitate a collaborative inter-organizational learning and innovativeness.

This exploratory study reviews evaluation data collected on the VCoP's. It includes quantitative analysis of secondary data and survey data on usage patterns of VCoP members. Findings related VCoP usage, the impact that organizational endorsement of organizational learning has on worker involvement in the community, and the development of weak professional ties between members were evaluated.

Keywords: Virtual communities of practice; social work and IT; collaborative learning; evidence -based practice

Journal Article.  4820 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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