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Much of workplace learning is informal. It is arising out of the day-to-day demands and challenges of the job. Workplace learning includes remedying problems, taking steps to boost quality or productivity, and managing change.

Workplace learning

Workplace learning is out of daily social interactions with colleagues and customers or clients. The ways people work in practice often differ fundamentally from the way such work may be described in training programmes (1).

When working on the fly, working and learning cannot be separated out, and workplace learning involves a combination of self-directed learning and taking advantage of spontaneous opportunities to learn, as and when they arise (2).

Research has identified a number of factors that facilitate informal learning. These include (3):

  • Sufficient task variation.
  • Participation in temporary groups.
  • Opportunities to consult experts inside and outside the workplace.
  • Changes in duties and work roles that stimulate learning.
  • Work roles that allow for peripheral participation in communities of practice.
  • Work roles that allow for the facilitation of informal communication, problem-solving, and innovation within communities of practice.
  • Structures and incentives for knowledge sharing.
  • Job mobility.
  • Autonomous jobs.

Learning ‘on the fly’ is not a specific approach or method, but a combination of appropriate approaches that cannot, by nature, be scheduled. While formal learning schemes may involve mentoring, shadowing or coaching, more informal learning involves consultation and collaboration within the sphere from which a learner finds himself influenced, which is often ‘more transient than implied by the euphemistic metaphor of a ‘community of practice’’ (2). It often involves observation and imitation. It infrequently involves the use of written materials such as manuals.


  • Brown, J. S. & Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning, and innovation. Organization Science, 2(1), 40-57
  • Eraut, M. (1999). Learning in the Workplace: Summary of ESRC project. [Online]. ESRC. Retrieved on Sep. 17, 2012, from ncl.ac.uk/learning.society/summaries/eraut.rtf
  • Skule, S. (2004). Learning Conditions at Work: A framework to understand and assess informal learning in the workplace. International Journal of Training and Development, 8(1), 8-20.

Lucubrate Magazine September 2019

The picture on the top of the article World travel aeroplane by rafo

The article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)

Workplace learning

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Lucubrate Magazine
Lucubrate Magazine

Lucubrate Magazine highlights trends in education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.
Lucubrate Magazine is a global based on the web magazine with the main office in Norway.

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