Michael Clifford Shoop, Ph.D. is a 2009 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Peter Vaill, DBA, Committee Member
  • Donald Polkinghorne, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Michael Carroll, Ph.D., External Reader


communities of practice, public service, public sector, situational analysis, dimensional analysis, government, leadership, innovation, employee engagement, staff development, group dynamics, human development, learning

Document Type


Publication Date



Communities of Practice (CoPs) have become a widely used method to enhance knowledge management, knowledge transfer, innovation and learning in large, complex organizations. Since first introduced by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in their 1991 book, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, the concept has been widely discussed in the private, public and educational sectors. Much of the literature has focused on either the abstract, theoretical underpinnings or the structural elements of CoPs with little attention paid to the actual experience of individual participants in CoPs - in effect reflecting the perspectives of the architects and builders of a home but not the occupants. This Grounded Theory study uses a combination of both Situational and Dimensional Analysis to explicate the experience of the participants in a number of CoPs functioning in the British Columbia Public Service. The intent is to offer a deeper understanding of the internal dynamics within CoPs for those interested in facilitating successful CoPs. The British Columbia Public Service (BCPS) is a large, knowledge-based organization delivering a wide variety of programs and services across a large, economically and culturally diverse, jurisdiction. The challenges faced by the BCPS are similar to those faced by other knowledge-based organizations. The use of CoPs is wide-spread in the BCPS displaying a range of structure from highly formalized to relatively informal. This research, based on 21 unstructured interviews and supported by other documentation, presents a model that helps to clarify both the relationship between CoPs and other organizational sub-groups as well as capturing the dynamic, member-driven nature of CoPs. It is anticipated that individuals interested in CoPs will find this modeling helpful in understanding how CoPs function from the perspective CoP participants. The dissertation also attempts to draw linkages to other pertinent theory related to group dynamics, human development, and learning that may support the understanding of how CoPs function. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,