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Work Related Informal Learning (2008)


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As presented by Christine Wihak in 2008. Uploaded on behalf of the Centre for Workplace Skills

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Work Related Informal Learning (2008)

  1. 1. Work-Related Informal Learning in Canada: Implications for Research & PracticeChristine Wihak, Thompson Rivers University -- Open Learning, PrincipalResearcherAlex Stephens, Coordinator Work & Learning Knowledge Centre(WLKC)Gail Hall, CAPLA Coordinator
  2. 2. A contract completed for: Canadian Council on Learning’sWork and Learning Knowledge Centre (WLKC) by The Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA)
  3. 3. The WLKC perspective Why this work?
  4. 4. Research Method Synthesis research -- not original research  Defined “work” as paid employment Had Advisory Committee with representation from key Stakeholders Literature Search  Searched literature published after 2000  Limited search terms to “informal learning” and “work” (and French equivalents) when searching academic databases and web  Also searched individual issues of journals listed on Work & Learning Network website (
  5. 5. Stakeholder Consultation Conducted to get stakeholder response to findings from literature review  Not intended to be statistically valid survey Five main Stakeholder groups  Industry / Business  Labour Unions  Groups/Professional Associations (occupational groups, professional associations, certification bodies)  Facilitators (training companies and organizations, PLAR practitioners, career/employment counsellors, immigrant serving agencies, etc.)  Researchers
  6. 6. Stakeholder Consultation Questionnaire reviewed, approved by Advisory Committee E-mail invitation to respond to on-line survey sent to over 100 contacts identified through CAPLA network, WLKC network, Advisory Committee members Received 58 completed questionnaires  Responses from all key Stakeholder groups  Only 3 responses from Labour out of 17 contacts Completed 9 telephone interviews with contacts who provided follow-up information
  7. 7. Work-Related Informal Learning Major purpose of research was to try to find consensus on working definition Asked Stakeholders what terms they use for “informal learning”
  8. 8. Informal Work-Related Learning Stakeholder terms Action learning Observation Experiential learning On-the-job training (OJT) Hands-on learning Partnering Incidental learning Peer learning Independent study Professional development Industry training Project learning Job shadowing Reflection Lifelong learning Researching Mentoring Self-directed learning Non-formal learning Service learning
  9. 9. Definition of Work-Related Informal Learning Usual trilogy of adult education and learning  Formal  Non-formal  Informal Informal learning often defined by what it is not Looked in literature for academic definitions of “informal learning”
  10. 10. Continuum of Learning Researchers in England attempted to find consensus in academic literature on definition of “informal learning” (Colley, Hodkinson, & Malcolm, 2003a; 2003a, b). Reviewed 10 major theoretical definitions, including Eraut’s, Livingstone’s Found no one definition that would have be credible across all sectors Instead suggested, “The challenge is not to combine formal and informal learning, but to recognize that they are always combined, and to then understand the implications of their particular balance in any learning situation” (Colley et al., 2003b, p. 8). Proposed practical tool to analyze where a particular learning situation fit on formality-informality continuum
  11. 11. Continuum of Learning Process – how the learning process is controlled, supported and assessed. Location and Setting – whether the environment is designed for learning, production or some other purpose such as socializing (e.g. water cooler). Purpose – whether learning is a primary or secondary focus of activity and whether the purpose is controlled by the learner or an external authority. Content – whether the learning outcomes are highly specified and involve abstract knowledge and advanced technical skill or whether the learning outcome is development of an everyday, practical skill.
  12. 12. Response to Continuum Approach Favourable response in literature from academics such as Livingstone, Sawchuk  Used effectively in Canadian study of labour education (Gairey et al., 2006) Most Stakeholders thought it would be useful or very useful Some concern about how to convey to non- academic Stakeholders  Participants in CAPLA conference found Continuum approach easy to use to analyze learning of typical PLAR candidate
  13. 13. Additional Aspect of Informal Learning? Consciousness -- possible fifth aspect of learning Idea of “tacit learning” suggested decades ago by Polanyi: “We know more than we can say” Vast majority of human cognition is unconscious Experts have more difficulty articulating knowledge than those with medium experience Implications for how to support, assess informal learning
  14. 14. Participation in Informal Learning Canadian surveys of participation in work-related informal learning:  Survey of Self-Employment (Delage, 2002)  National Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (Rubenson, Desjardin, & Yoon, 2007)  WALL (Work & Lifelong Learning) survey (Livingstone & Scholtz, 2006) Estimates of participation ranged from 33% in past month to 93% in past year Gender, age not strongly related to participation Possible indication that participation rate related to education level, occupational status  Higher levels associated with more involvement in informal learning, use of more different strategies for informal learning
  15. 15. Case Study Research Case study research reviewed in terms of major occupational groups used in WALL survey Shows informal work-related learning can be rich and varied  e.g. “work arounds” created by social service workers (Boutilier, 2008) Commonalities in reasons for learning, approaches to learning across occupational groups “Resistive” and/or “secretive” learning found in some, but not all, workplaces with industrial and/or unionized workers  Workplace labour relations and/or researchers’ framework may influence findings
  16. 16. Other Features of WLKC report Typology of informal learning based on Eraut (2004)  How do people learn?  What do they learn?  What factors affect the quality of learning?  Personal characteristics of learners  Workplace learning environments Relationship between informal learning and other learning in the workplace Supportive practices
  17. 17. Knowledge and Information Gaps Development of a shared vocabulary for informal learning Greater recognition of the inter-related nature of all workplace learning Better measurement of how people are learning informally at work, how much they are learning, and how useful their learning is More information on effective informal learning strategies for specific types of workers
  18. 18. Knowledge and Information Gaps More information on how learners’ personal characteristics affect informal work-related learning More information on the relationship between work environments and informal learning Tools for assessing informal learning and work environments Addressing the question of how informal learning affects work satisfaction, worker retention, performance and productivity Policy options for Canada that would facilitate the development of actual policy or policy framework
  19. 19. Knowledge Exchange Activities? Recent research (Carliner et al., 2008) suggesting that workplace practitioners make little use of scholarly literature. How can findings from academic research best be shared with Stakeholders?  Employers, training community, unions
  20. 20. Final Report to come (Nov/08):Watch for it (RFL) CAPLA’s pan-Canadian repository and knowledge exchange for PLA, Work and Learning Knowledge Centre
  21. 21. For further information contact:Alex Stephens, WLKC Coordinator613 241-3222, ext/poste 4244a.stephens@wlkc-csamt.caGail Hall, Project Coordinator for CAPLA204 or gail.hall@recognitionforlearning.caChristine Wihak, TRU, Principal Project