Invisible learning



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.


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