Theory on Designs for Learning

Interview with Etienne Wenger

At the NNU conference in April 2020 my colleague Peter Holmboe and I were fortunate to spend a day in the company of Etienne Wenger.
Wenger is especially known for his work on situated learning together wih Jean Lave and later his theories on Communities of Practice. After a well-done keynote, Etienne, Peter and I sat down and had a talk on some of the themes presented in his talk. You can read our prepared questions and listen to Wengers answers below.

Q1: How would you describe your professional identity and your current work?

Q2: How does your theory correspond to practice and practitioners?

Q3: Today you presented the concept of Knowledgeability as the next step in developing your theory. Could you elaborate a little bit on that concept?

Q4: Is Knowledgeability a way of combining the epistemological and ontological aspects of knowledge, as not only knowing in a how and that, but also knowing of as eg. Experiences of being in the world?

Q5: Your concept is also disrupting the way we think school, wouldn’t you say? What are your thoughts on that?

Q6: Would that mean the subjects taught in school would have to find a way to be more a whole and to intertwine more in each other, instead of being separated ways of teaching students in different disciplines?

Q7: Many teachers would argue, that working with math both requires and provide competences needed in the world, and that you need some of this basic knowledge to engage in the world. What is your view on that?

Q8: Does that mean you agree on, that in early years of school, primary and secondary, we need to know the basics of how and where to acquire knowledge and what it means to learn, more than e.g. focusing on specific and narrow subject-content?

Q9: Does this idea of becoming a master in a specific area as an experience that students can use in other learning situations correspond to your thoughts on trajectories of learning? And do you see a trajectory as one or multiple paths through the learning landscape?

Q10: In your talk you said, that one of the most important things in the 21st century for us as humans would be the ability to create and shape identity in the process of learning, and we should be more focused on that in school instead of just teaching the curriculum. Would you elaborate a little on that?

Q11: Does your theory see the learner with multiple identities, or do you have the idea of a solid core identity from where you take on roles and contemporary identities?

Q12:So, knowledgeability is fluent? And dependent on the identity you develop?

Etienne and his wife Beverly just published a new book called: “Learning to make a difference – Value creation in social learning spaces”.
See more here: