Monday, 23 November 2009

When learning isn't "learning"

One problem which confronts anyone trying to investigate learning in workplace culture is that much of what you, as a researcher, want to count as learning isn't called or maybe even recognised as "learning" by the people concerned. This is particularly the case with so-called "informal learning".

I've just seen this issue nicely typologised in a white paper on "performance toolkits" by Peter Casebow and Owen Ferguson. There they distinguish three levels of engagement from an employee:
  • Just-in-time: "Employee seeks help and suport at the time they need it to deal with an unfamiliar task, challenge or problem." They won't consider this as learning, but as "getting the job done".
  • Explore: "Employee recognises that the issue justifies investing some time to investigating the task, challenge or problem." They won't consider this learning, but rather "research" or "investigation".
  • Deep dive: "Employee recognises that they need time away from work to immerse him/herself in 'learning mode' to acquire new skills and perspectives." This is where formal learning is involved, and is the only one which employees are likely to consider unproblematically as "learning".
The implication, of course, is that corporate training and development should be concerned not only with helping people "learn" but also with helping people "research", "investigate" and "get the job done". I wonder what parts of learning in higher education might not be recognised by students (or lecturers) as "learning"? Some of the administration and organisation needed to carry it out, perhaps, which tends to be undervalued by lecturers but is high up on the list of desirable study skills.

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