Collectively learning to talk about personal concerns in a peer-led youth program: A field study of a community of practice

Niels Buus*, Maja Moensted

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Youth peer-support is an increasingly established approach to youth work. Drawing on Wenger's theory of a 'community of practice', this study explored social learning processes in an Australian community-based and peer-led youth program for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Social learning was conceptualised as arising from processes of 'negotiated meaning', which Wenger described as a duality of 'participation' and 'reification'. The study was designed as a qualitative field study drawing on participant observation data from weekend workshops and 16 semi-structured interviews with young program participants. Results indicate that the program was highly conventionalised with repeated practices reifying the meaning negotiated by the participants. However, it was also open for participatory negotiation of meaning through which participants learned to recognise and share their own and others' vulnerabilities, which created a strong sense of belonging to a community of equals. The study's conception of social learning offers a novel explanation of how the youth program created and sustained alternative transformative spaces. This was done through simple, repetitive and highly conventionalised practices, brokered by peers, that allowed participants to recognise and address their own and others' vulnerabilities in new ways.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community (Print Edition)
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)e4425-e4432
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • communities of practice
  • community intervention
  • high-risk populations
  • peer-learning
  • young adulthood
  • Learning
  • Humans
  • Adolescent
  • Counseling
  • Peer Group
  • Qualitative Research
  • Australia


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