Legitimate Peripheral Participation Melody Noceti

What is Legitimate Peripheral Participation?

"It concerns the process by which newcomers become part of a community of practice. A person's intentions to learn are engaged and the meaning of learning is configured through the process of becoming a full participant in a sociocultural practice. This social process includes, indeed it subsumes, the learning of knowledgeable skills." (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 29, as cited by Varenne)


Typically, the "newcomer" interacts with the "oldtimer" to learn the workings of a Community of Practice, as described by Inoue (2012).

Legitimate Peripheral Learning involves "access to the shared knowledge, i.e. the social life, of the communities of practice is thus crucial to legitimate peripheral participation" (Rasmussen Hougaard, 2009).

"Learning" is understood as "an integral and inseparable aspect of general social practices in the lived-in world" (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p.35., as Cited in Rasmussen Hougaard, 2009).

The video that follows does not focus solely on LPP, but it does provide a solid context for LPP within situated learning environments.

A Literary Example:

"Oldtimer" and "Newcomer"

For instance, in the Harry Potter series, Harry and the other students (the newcomers) at Hogwarts learn the ways of the world of magic from full practitioners of their crafts, like Professors McGonagall, Trelawney, and Snape (practitioners). The students do not only acquire the skills of casting spells and making potions -- but the way of life of a wizard: the ethics of magic, how to interact with muggles, and the hierarchies and social norms of their society.

Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, on the other hand, plays the part of the master -- he coordinates the others and is an undeniably wise wizard. However, his very mastery can make him an intimidating force to those who are just starting out.

By slowing gaining an understanding -- and eventual mastery -- of the ways of the wizard world, peripheral participants are able to gain the skills and understanding of the social nature of the group to become practitioners or ever masters.


Peripheral participants are able to engage in the community to the level of their ability. As their understanding and skills increase, so does their level of participation.

LPP can be effective for ensuring the comfort of the newcomer, as initial involvement is typically quite non-threatening in its complexity.

LPP can be used effectively for online communities, according to Woo (2015), as the less skilled are able to participate to their level of comfort but are able to learn from those who are more experiences and actively engaged. Thus, they are more passively involved. As participants become increasingly confident, their active participation increases.


Because Communities of Practice are often informal, voluntary, and flexible, they can be difficult to implement in formal education. For example, Inoue (2012) states that a CoP is a "social learning environment in which everyone learns through mutual engagement and non-authoritarian interactions." If the students do not agree to be mutually engaged or if grouping are assigned, true peripheral participation will not result.

Also, according to Rasmussen Hougaard (2009), because LPP is primarily social, second-language learning participants may be judged harshly or ostracized by the more expert members due to the full practitioners' potential inability to distinguish between struggles with language-learning and competence in the CoP's domain.

Educational Implications:

Most examples of true LPP that I found online were focused on the workplace, higher education, and online learning communities. That said, teachers might be able to allow for some elements of LPP in these ways:

Project-Based Learning.

At our school, we see this in our FFA program, where the more experienced students, in addition to the teachers, serve to model the code of conduct, the work ethic, and the values of the program, as well as how to care for their livestock.

Also at GHS, the yearbook program works to build the level of participation in an authentic way, allowing students to increase their participation as their comfort level grow through the guidance and modeling of our norms: that deadlines are firm, that we are a business, that we are a team. Not all of these are explicitly stated; the new staff members learn this through the way we operate.

Opportunities to seek out mentors

In our 20Time projects, students seek out mentors, whether they are from the school, the community, or online. These are all ways they can gain experience, knowledge, skills, and an understanding of the social norms of their self-chosen fields of interest.

More ideas....

Provide collaborative opportunities in class.

Using the Japanese-based lesson model, as presented by Inoue (2012), can also help to created opportunities for legitimate peripheral participation; in group-based kikan-shido, less adept students can be guided by the more able classmates in their groups, while still receiving feedback from the teacher.

In the neriage stage (Inoue, 2012), less-confident students are able to participate more passively as they gain a stronger understanding from the other students and teacher.

Created By
Melody Noceti


Created with images by Lordcolus - "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Book Cover" • LouisBauer - "fitness weight dumbbell" • PublicDomainPictures - "weakness hammer crush" • B-G - "idea notes table"

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