Shared expertise

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1 Definition

Shared expertise refers to expertise knowledge that is shared by two or more persons or organizations.

See also collective intelligence and knowledge management. Some forms of team learning also can profit from the expertise of various team members.

2 Shared expertise in education

Shared expertise is something that happens in most activity-based designs:

  • Designs that include constructionist writing activities (writing-to-learn) engage learners in sharing but may also engage people with expertise.
  • In situated learning (cognitive apprenticeship), sharing is a center piece of the framework. I.e. apprentices learn from experts through enculturation. Communities of practice are "groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise by interacting on an ongoing basis." (Wenger, 2002)
  • In CSCL sharing is viewed as a process of mutual understanding, conflict resolution and grounding, i.e. truly shared knowledge (expertise) is the result of learning processes.

3 Shared expertise in the work context

Experience sharing often can happen in informal ways or through tasks.


Informal Communication plays a major role in an organization's ability to learn. According to Lave and Wenger (1991), shared interests, shared expertise and the passion for joint enterprises are the main attributes that keep a community creative and competitive. Informal communication is also considered to compensate the weaknesses of the formal flow of information, to mediate the organization's culture and values, and to enhance the social relationships within a team (Schütze, 2000). Besides these social functions, informal communication also serves task-related issues: It supports shortterm coordination (Fish et al., 1992) and the mediation of specific knowledge (Held & von Bismarck, 1999). (Streitz et al., 2003: 2)


In management theory, shared expertise is a form of human capital. “ Human capital refers to knowledge that is embodied in people. As such, the human capital and knowledge literatures are linked. Human capital is explored in the economics literature, while the knowledge literature draws primarily from sociology.” (Coff, 2002: 108)

Collective Development of Expertise (Bereiter & Scardamalia 1993, Lave & Wenger 1991) is organizational learning.

4 Technology

  • Workplace design (including buildings). E.g. so-called learning centres
  • Ubiquitous technology, e.g. individuals can post little notes, video and audio stream to a shared surface (Streitz et al.).
  • In particular, there is interest for ambient displays (e.g. displays designed to display information without constantly demanding the user's full attention. (Streitz et al.).
  • All sorts of social software.

5 References

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1993). Surpassing ourselves: An inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court.

  • Coff, Russell W. (2002), Human Capital, Shared Expertise, and the Likelihood of Impasse in Corporate Acquisitions, Journal of Management, Vol. 28, No. 1, 107-128 (2002), DOI 10.1177/014920630202800107
  • Dybala T. and Tecuci G. (1995). Shared Expertise Space: A Learning Oriented Model for Cooperative Engineering Design. In Proceedings of the IJCAI-95 Workshop on Machine Learning in Engineering. August. Montreal, Canada. [HTML]
  • Konsynski & McFarlan (1990) Konsynski, Benn R.; and McFarlan, F. Warren. Information Partnerships - Shared Data, Shared Scale. Harvard Business Review Sept.-Oct. 1990: 114-120
  • Streitz, N. A. , Th. Prante, C. Röcker, D. van Alphen, C. Magerkurth, R. Stenzel, D. A. Plewe, Ambient Displays and Mobile Devices for the Creation of Social Architectural Spaces: Supporting informal communication and social awareness in organizations., In: K. O'Hara, M. Perry, E. Churchill, D. Russell (Ed.): Public and Situated Displays: Social and Interactional Aspects of Shared Display Technologies, Kluwer Publishers, 2003. pp. 387-409. PDF Reprint
  • Wenger, Etienne, McDermott, Richard, Snyder, William M. (2002) Cultivating communities practice. Harvard University Press.
  • Wenger, Etienne. (2000), Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems, Organization, Volume 7(2): 225-246