workplace learning: situation learning theory

The authors also examine the application of the Kauffman’s complexity catastrophe theory applied to learn. They note that learning in the Kauffman’s NK model encompasses both interaction among individual agents, and also between agents and groups. As long as the group members are closely connected, then the overall contribution of one of the group members to the overall performance of the entire group is closely influenced by their interactions with the others. There are two types of interaction in this model, the bottom-up, and top-down interactions. The former occurs when the group’s performance is influenced by the contribution of each member, while the top-down occurs when the decision at top-down if to incorporate an individual’s learning as collective or not, is based on the value of the individual to the whole group. Moreover, the authors also examine the overall impact of Kauffman’s density on the amount of group learning.

Cacciattolo Karen, in her article entitled “Defining workplace learning,” also expounds on the situation learning theory in organizations and how it impacts on the human resource development. In the paper, she explores the significance of workplace learning and some of the obstacles to effective workplace learning practice. She admits that 80 % of the learning in organizations occurs through informal means, through networking, coaching and mentoring. Work-related interactions are a major contribution to learning in the current workplace. She describes workplace learning as occurring through relations and dynamics between individual and collective actors. Moreover, she draws heavily from the works of Lave and Wenger on situated learning. Here, she emphasizes on the two concepts of situational learning, communities of practice and legitimate peripheral participation as advanced by Lave and Wenger (Cacciattolo 2015, p.1). Informed by these principles, she states that employees in organizations can learn from participation in day to day activities within their workplace communities. The communities of practice are crucial as they provide the link between an individual and the organizational learning. Considering this, she emphasizes that trust and openness should be reiterated in the various departments in organizations. However, she is also keen to point out some of the criticism of the situational learning theory in the workplace such as criticisms on the lack of analysis of concepts such as politics, comradeship, and the form of a community which have a great impact on the workplace learning (Cacciattolo 2015, p.1). Also, she points out to the criticism about the lack of attention on the development of knowledge with the communities of practice during the periods of change in organizations, and the lack of consideration on the levels of innovation offered by the community, as well as the structure actions within.

Saunderson Roy also contributed to the discussion on the impacts of situation learning on HRD.In the article, they highlight how employees can develop soft skills with situational learning. These soft skills include communication, dealing with interpersonal conflicts, and self-promotion skills. The author discards the common notion that people are born with these soft skills (Saunderson 2013, p. 1). He states that the best way to teach employees the soft skills is by creating situational learnings opportunities. Saunderson argues the employees are put in a contextual setting where they authentically learn and put the soft skills into practice. The author argues that situation –based learning takes the learner form simply being a passive observer, to being an active participant in a community where they can safely practise the desired skills. There are various ways through which individuals can acquire soft leadership skills. They include mentoring where the employees are under mentor coaches who give them appropriate feedback on their performance (Saunderson 2013, p. 1). Besides, it can also take the form of apprenticeship, where employees get to work with mentors who also want to develop their interpersonal skills. Finally, it can take the form of group activities.

Noe, Clarke and Klein also delve into the issue of situational learning and its relationship with the HRD practices in organizations through their article, “learning in the Twenty-First-Century Workplace“. Here, they acknowledge that human capital resource is fundamental in any organization, as they help firms to gain a competitive advantage. In the article, the authors review some of the learning that happens in organizations at the individual, team and organizational levels. The researchers point out how traditionally, organizations have relied on formal training and development as the main means of learning among employees (Noe, Clarke &Klein 2014, p. 246). They give a good example of the U.S, where organizations spend a whopping $164. 2 billion on formal training and development programs for employees. However, considering the financial pressures, budget constraints and geographically dispersed workforce, it is hard for these organizations to continue with the formal training programs today. Faced with this reality, many organizations today are focusing on informal learning in the workplace. Informal learning is broad and entails learning from others for example peers, supervisors, mentors, and also through self-reflection (Noe, Clarke & Klein 2014, p. 250).

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