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Enhancing Learning in the Workplace

posted on 2023-05-22, 19:57 authored by Christine OwenChristine Owen

In rapidly changing circumstances the organisation of work takes on important convergences. These include an intensification of work processes; and increased expectations driven high market and community expectations of reliability of supply, and high levels of reliance on modern and emerging technologies - especially information and communication technologies. In these changing work contexts learning in the workplace becomes increasingly important. In these workplaces learning is critically important. In the chapter learning is framed as inherent to the nature of work in these contexts.

Individuals learn formally and informally; they learn variously through watching others and they learn with others. At an organisational level learning is also important when the experiences of workers are captured so that these organisations may adapt in order to be agile and resilient to unknown futures. In this respect, learning is a two-way process. The focus is not just on how workers learn either formally or informally, but on how organisations learn from the experiences of their workforce in order to adapt in an increasingly competitive economic environment.

In the chapter learning is theorised both from a psychological standpoint and a socio-cultural perspective. This is because both contribute to our understanding of the formal and informal processes involved. Drawing from an adaption of experiential learning the chapter analyses the ways in which elements of work organisation can both enable and constrain the processes important in learning: reflecting on, making sense-of and envisaging new futures that may be experienced in the workplace. By using research conducted in the air traffic control workplace the chapter highlights the ways in which work organisation shapes the experiences of work and the ways in which reflection is mediated by narratives and stereotypes that become part of a cultural collective memory. Conceptualising, is the process of making sense of what has occurred, to interpret reflections on experience and to generalise these interpretations to new settings. However, what will be noticed and attended to will also be shaped by organisational cultures which are based on collectively held beliefs and values (where schemas or shared mental models of sense-making are embedded). These in turn generate norms of practice. A final element essential in the learning process is experimentation. Envisaging new alternatives may occur also in thinking about past actions (reframing). In this case an expansion of the range of choices available might be made though they may or may not be acted upon in the future. Opportunities for experimentation are mediated by the structuring of work experience as well as workplace cultures. In high intensity, high reliability and high technology workplaces learning from near misses and mistakes can be framed as a form of experimentation. In drawing on these events as a resource it is possible to reframe them as valuable opportunities for learning.

In rapidly changing circumstances learning is increasingly part of the currency of production and of safety. In the future organisations that are most productive will be those who understand the value of learning from events that happen in the workplace. This will be particularly so as work continues to increase in intensity in terms of demands and multi-tasking and when there is a need to be more efficient and agile.


Publication title

Pedagogies for Future-Oriented Adult Learners: Flipping the Lens from Teaching to Learning


H Bound, JP Tan and RLW Ying






School of Social Sciences


Springer Nature

Place of publication

Cham, Switzerland



Rights statement

Copyright 2022 Springer Nature

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Workforce transition and employment