Workplace Learning

Topics: Lifelong learning, Educational psychology, Continuing education Pages: 15 (4811 words) Published: May 31, 2011
LIFELONG LEARNING IN THE WORKPLACE

CHRISTOPHER KNAPPER

We live in times of unprecedented technological and social change that have profound implications for the nature of work, the workplace and our working lives. Adaptability to shifting circumstances and readiness to learn new workrelated knowledge and skills have become almost more important than competence at the tasks for which we were hired. Workers must now be able to deal not just with issues for which they were trained, but also to tackle unique problems that have never been faced before. This has major implications for educational institutions, for employers and for workers, and has led to calls for an emphasis on lifelong and life-wide learning. The idea that we continue to learn throughout our lives, in all facets of our lives, and from a wide range of resources, not just at school or university or in formal courses. This paper explores the different ways we learn in and from work and the factors that influence our effectiveness as lifelong learners. It is argued that lifelong learning in the workplace is a mutual responsibility shared by educational institutions, workers and employers.

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istorically we have made rather clear distinctions between places where people learn (schools, universities) and those where we earn our living. The notion of special places for learning is deeply rooted in nearly all cultures, and the creation of the formal school is the first of Ashby’s four educational “revolutions” that transformed our ability to learn and produce great advances in civilisation (Carnegie Foundation, 1972)1. Yet human beings learn throughout their lives and in almost all situations - at home, in their leisure activities and at work. We start learning even before birth, and we continue until senility. Some of this learning is incidental and largely unconscious (for example finding out about our spouse’s idiosyncrasies, or discovering a new route to work), but a large amount of learning is planned and purposive (Tough, 1971). This is what is meant by the notion of lifelong and life-wide learning.

SECTION 4: Workplace Learning

Christopher Knapper Director Instructional Development Centre Professor of Psychology Queen’s University, Canada

1 The other three of Ashby’s revolutions were the invention of writing, printing and the wide availability of books, and (more controversially) the use of technology to enhance learning.

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Lifelong Learning in the Workplace

THE CONCEPT OF LIFELONG LEARNING The term lifelong learning was first used 30 years ago by Edgar Faure in his seminal work for Unesco, Learning To Be (Faure et al, 1972). When my colleague Arthur Cropley and I first began writing about lifelong learning in the 1980s (Cropley and Knapper, 1983) the term was not widely known. By 2001 it has become a ubiquitous slogan that appears in government position papers, university mission statements and advertising literature for all manner of educational products and services. It is an expression that has come to mean whatever its users want it to mean, with little understanding of the original concept articulated by Faure, or knowledge of the underlying factors that caused Unesco to put forward the notion of lifelong learning as a blueprint for universal education.

The Need for Lifelong Learning
Why was this blueprint thought to be needed? Its origins were in fact quite idealistic and reflect goals for education that stressed the need for democracy, equal opportunity, and individual selffulfilment, which would only be possible if the tools for learning were available to all, and not restricted to a privileged elite. A second impetus for lifelong and life-wide learning came from the increasing complexity of people’s lives and the rapid pace of change, both social and technological. Such change is both profound and rapid, and its pace has accelerated as we enter the third millennium. For example, Homer-Dixon comments that although...

References: Bertrand, D., Knapper, C.K. (1991). Contextual influences on students ' approaches to learning in three academic departments. Unpublished honours thesis, University of Waterloo. Botkin, J.W., Elmandjra, M., Malitza, M. (1979). No limits to learning. Oxford, Pergamon. Candy, P.C., Crebert, R. G., O 'Leary, J.O. (1994). Developing lifelong learners through undergraduate education. Canberra, Australia, National Board of Employment, Education and Training. Carnegie Foundation. (1972). The fourth revolution: Instructional technology in higher education. New York, McGraw-Hill. Cranton, P. (1994). Understanding and promoting transformative learning: A guide to educators of adults. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. Cropley, A.J., Knapper, C.K. (1983). Higher education and the promotion of lifelong learning, Studies in Higher Education, 8, 15-21. Delva, M.D., Knapper, C.K., Kirby, J.R., Birtwhistle, R.V. (2001). Approaches to learning in professional practice: Implications for continuing and undergraduate medical education. Paper presented at the meeting of the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges, Toronto, April/May. Faure, E. (with others) (1972). Learning to be: The world of education today and tomorrow. Paris and London, Unesco and Harrap. Homer-Dixon, T. (2000). The ingenuity gap. New York, Knopf. Kirby, J.R., Knapper, C.K., Carty, A.E. (1997). Approaches to learning at work: A report to the Bank of Montreal. Kingston, Ont, Queen 's University, Faculty of Education. Knapper, C.K. (1988). Technology and lifelong learning. In D. Boud (Ed.), Developing student autonomy in learning (2nd edition). London, Kogan Page. Knapper, C.K. (1995). Approaches to study and lifelong learning: Some Canadian initiatives. In G. Gibbs (Ed.), Improving student learning through assessment and evaluation. Oxford, Oxford Centre for Staff Development. Knapper, C.K., Cropley, A.J. (2000). Lifelong learning in higher education. London, Kogan Page. MacBeath, J. (2000). Who’s top in the world class or just another day in the global village? Paper presented at the meeting of the International Network for Educational Improvement, City University of Hong Kong, November. Marton, F., Saljo, R. (1976a). On qualitative differences in learning: I - Outcome and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 411. Marton, F., Saljo, R. (1976b). On qualitative differences in learning: II - Outcome as a function of the learner 's conception of the task. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 115-127. Ramsden, P., Entwistle, N.J. (1981). Effects of academic departments on students ' approaches to studying. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 51, 368-383. Roche, A.M. (2000). Beyond training and towards workforce development: NCETA’s new role. Paper presented at the APSAD annual conference, Melbourne, November.
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Senge, P.M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, Doubleday. Sternberg, R.J., Wagner, R.K., Okagaki, L. (1993). Practical intelligence: The nature and role of tacit knowledge in work and at school. In H. Reese and J. Puckett (Eds.), Advances in lifespan development (pp. 205-227), Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum. Tough, A. (1971). The adult 's learning projects. Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Warr, P.B., Allan, C. (1998). Learning strategies and occupational training. In C.L. Cooper and I. T. Robertson (Eds.), International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 13 (83-121), London, Wiley. Watkins, K.E., Marsick, V.J. (1993). Sculpting the learning organization. San Francisco, JosseyBass.
SECTION 4: Workplace Learning
Author Contact Details Christopher Knapper Professor of Psychology Director, Instruction Development Centre Queen’s University Kingston Ontario Canada Ph: 0011 1 3 533 6428 Fax: 0015 1 3 533 6735 knapper@psyc.queensu.ca
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