The overall problem that I intend to present in this address is the overshadowing dominance
of formal education in our professional development practices, practices that
are largely informal. This formal approach restricts professional autonomy and reduces
professionals2 to marionettes in a Punch and Judy show, rather than creative human
beings capable of improvising and having a will of their own.
Formal education enjoys pride of place because people’s perceptions
of learning have largely been influenced by their own experience of learning.
Perceptions that were formed when they were going to school. Learning has been
institutionalised. Anything else – any learning that is not institutionalised – is called
experience and it is developed slowly over the years through hard labour in practice.
While it certainly has value, it is mostly ignored in terms of empowering professional
development. For most people, experience is something that is only given respect on a
CV, where, ideally, it helps you to get better jobs.
When I talk about ‘invisible learning,’ I am
referring to the informal learning that is
embedded in work practices where professionals
encounter challenges that require
a learning process in order to solve them.
This learning is more than just experiential
learning, involving everyday problem-solving.
Informal learning has a profound impact on one’s ability to perform successfully
in the workplace.
The informal learning approach
integrates working and learning, rather than having them placed outside of daily work
routines, as the formal approach tends to do.
As such, professionals should be encouraged to
develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relationships that they can rely on in need of
learning. This space changes constantly and will be small or large depending on the
problem at hand. It can stretch from a single moment to an extended period of time.
It may be personal or private.