Intersection of trajectories: a newcomer in a community of practice

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a case study of a newcomer to the practice of policing to explore conceptualisations of learning through practice. It aims to position learning as the intersections of trajectories of being and becoming within a community of practice. The paper seeks to argue that learners need to be understood with respect to their personal histories and how these interact with the social and cultural dimensions of the workplace. Design/methodology/approach – This paper is a case study of a new police officer with data collected through a series of interviews and observations over a two‐year period. Findings – The case study presented demonstrates the relationship between prior experience, personal histories, participation and a sense of belonging in shaping the learning of early‐career police officers. It suggests that in considering newcomers to the workplace it is important to view the process of learning as being influence by these interconnected factors. Research limitations/implications – This study concludes that the position of the individual in the social learning of a community of practice is an important aspect that needs further exploration. Although the significance of learner identity with communities of practice is acknowledged by Lave and Wenger it remains underdeveloped, and continues to present as an area for further research. Practical implications – Trajectories of learning for newcomers to the workplace are affected by their previous social and cultural experiences and expertise, the association that they bring from these to the new community and participation in practices of the community. There exists, therefore, a role for managers in shaping the organisation to be supportive of these informal learning experience and, thus, the selection and training of managers should be aligned to these goals. Originality/value – This paper extends current understandings of learning and development in the policing context as well as contributing to the broader discussion of informal learning in the workplace and understanding of experts and novices within communities of practice.


School of Education

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Journal Article

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