situational learning in the workplace environment

One of the scholars who put forward the situational learning in the workplace environment is Stephen Billett, through his article titled “Situated Learning Workplace Experience”. He conducted a study where he interviewed workers in a mining and secondary processing plant about their workplace learning arrangements. The investigation analyses the nature and outcomes of workplace learning arrangements, comprising of both structured learning arrangements and the informal learning arrangements in the everyday workplace practices (Billett 1994, p. 112). The participants in the study entailed 5 full-time employees. The employees had work experience of at least two days. Interviews were used to collect information from the employees about their interaction with the structured learning arrangements at the plant. The perceptions about the learning experiences were analyzed under the categories of learning form the other workers, observing and listening, direct instruction and the work environment. The validity of the verbal responses in the study was discounted, since it is based on self-reporting rather than actual events or changes in behaviour (Billett 1994, p. 112). To enhance the validity of reporting, an incident approach was adopted. The participants had to base their responses on actual events.

The findings of the study revealed that the employees greatly valued mentors and other workers as important sources of information in the organization. They were able to tell, explain and make clear things that the employees could not immediately observe in the organization. Hence, they proved to be quite useful in helping the employees understand their work tasks. Besides, the mentors were recognized for their ability to assist in developing attitudes of employees towards work practices that are conducive for work performance. The employees reported that the qualities of good mentors they expected are being approachable, and the ability to explain fully without being too technical, patient and ready to repeat explanations. Another important source of learning pointed out by the employees was everyday activities (Billett 1994, p.112). The employees agreed that the everyday activities they participated in provided practice. Moreover, observing and listening were noted as also other important sources of situational learning among the employees. The employees admitted that observing and listening enabled them to learn how to skillfully undertake their duties. From these findings, it is evident that the employees in the plant highly valued the learning activities embedded in a culture of practice. When the learning is not based on an appropriate context and is rather based on the description, the entire nature of interaction changes and understanding becomes more complex.

Another researcher who contributed to this topic is Megan Clus in her article titled, “informal learning in the workplace: A review of the literature”.Clus acknowledges that in the last decade, the modern workplace has increasingly become a legitimate environment for employees to learn and acquire new skills and knowledge (Le Clus 2011, p.12). In the paper, she pays close attention to the informal learning occurring in the workplace, explaining the various ways through which informal learning is shaping the current workplace environment. One of the ways through which learning occurs in the current workplace is through situated learning. She recognizes that the employees stand to learn a lot from the informal workplace learning opportunities embedded in everyday work activities.

She draws from the work of Lave and Wenger, who state that learning can be described as situated in the context of social practice, where the work setting creates an environment for co-workers to acquire knowledge and skills that connect the theory they learn to practice realistically and efficiently. Besides most of the learning in organizations is informal and comprises part of the everyday work activities (Le Clus 2011, p. 12). They emphasized situational learning in organizations takes the form of informal learning and is crucial as it provides an opportunity for employees to participate in workplace activities while encouraging them to be self-directed and to reflect on their learning experiences. Informal learning in organizations can take the form of social interaction, teamwork, conversation and mentoring. She acknowledges that a crucial part of situational learning is the construction of knowledge within the social and cultural circumstances in which learning occurs. Here, she argues the quality of learning that occurs in organizations is dependent on the kind of activities that employee engages in, the access to sufficient support, guidance, and how the employees construct their knowledge of the different workplace situations

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