A typology of informal learning in the workplace

Anoush Margaryan, Colin Milligan, Allison Littlejohn

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    The aim of this study is to contribute to understanding of the ways in which professionals learn and develop their expertise in the context of work. A key research questions is: What is learned in the workplace? To address this question, the study was designed to elicit categories of knowledge, skills and dispositions that professionals acquired through engagement in work. The study was conducted in a multinational company in the energy sector. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews. Participants were 29 professionals (engineers, scientists, learning specialists and others) working in 12 different countries. Respondents were asked to think about their most significant learning experience in the past year - the project or task from which they had learned the most. Through a series of semi-structured questions they were prompted to articulate what they learned. Synthesis of the responses generated a typology of knowledge and skills acquired through work. These were grouped under 5 categories: understanding and awareness; know-how; locative knowledge; personal development and enculturation. The findings contribute empirical evidence on the breadth and variety of types of knowledge and skills that can be acquired through work, helping refine our understanding of the learning potential of the workplace. The findings could contribute to practice by enabling organisations to provide more effective learning opportunities for their employees and ensuring recognition of knowledge and skills that employees acquire through every day.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • informal learning
    • workplace learning
    • typology


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