Sociocultural view of continuing professional development
This paper looks at how often-used “mind: local” metaphors have limited our understanding of learning. Mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) programs often only keep track of attendance rather than actual development. This paper looks at problems with, and alternatives to, CPD as it is often structured today.
Note: I reference this article in my essay, The duality of participation and reification, and a little Bolero.
- Metaphors, learning, and commonsense
- Limitations of the commonsense ‘acquisition’ and ‘transfer’ metaphors
- Critique of the existing professional development theorizing and its metaphors
- Other influential metaphors
- How do professionals learn?
- A practice approach to understanding professional learning
- Influences of work and the context of work on professional learning
- What does this imply for continuing development?
- Towards a fuller notion of CPD
The common use of some metaphors are limiting our understanding of learning — metaphors like “acquiring” and “transferring” learning. These metaphors have also negatively influenced CPD programs:
- Professionals are “updated” by absorbing packets of information
- Knowledge is transferred from experts to professionals, outside of the actual practice
Proposed new metaphors: Participation, construction, and becoming.
Practice, work, and learning
Most learning occurs as part of work and social activities, especially when solving problems with others. Some professions recognize this and have extensive internship periods (for example, residency programs for new doctors).
‘Practice’ combines what, where, when, and why people do an activity. It links activity with context. It is not just applying knowledge. It is ‘becoming’ and it involves change. Practices evolve and can emerge in unpredictable ways.
Think of professionals not as just their attributes but how they use those attributes in practice.
Fostering learning at work
Work can provide opportunities for learning, and/or it can inhibit learning. Important factors:
- Learning potential of the task in terms of task complexity, variety, and control
- Opportunities for feedback, evaluation, and reflection on the outcomes of work actions
- Type and degree of formalization of work processes
- Organizational arrangements for employee participation in handling problems and developing work processes
- Learning resources in terms of, for example, time for analysis, interaction, and reflection
- Probability that proficiency will be rewarded through interesting tasks, better career opportunities, or pay
- External professional contact
Expansive participation provides more learning opportunities than restrictive participation:
|Expansive participation (more learning opportunities)||Restrictive participation (fewer learning opportunities)|
|Widely distributed skills||Polarized distribution of skills|
|Technical skills valued||Technical skills taken for granted|
|Knowledge and skills of whole workforce developed and valued||Knowledge and skills of key workers or groups developed and valued|
|Cross-disciplinary groups or communication encouraged||Bounded communication and work|
|Manager or supervisor as enabler||Manager as controller|
|Chances to learn new jobs or skills||Lack of workplace mobility|
|Expanded job design||Restricted job design|
|Bottom-up approach to innovation||Top-down approach to innovation|
|Formative approach to evaluation||Summative approach to evaluation|
|Individual progression encouraged; strong internal labor market||Weak internal labor market; recruitment mainly from outside to meet skill needs|
CPD and training
CPD should include experiences or opportunities to expand the professionals’ practice by participating with others. For example:
- Temporarily doing the job of a more senior person
- Collaborating with others across functions or disciplines
Training courses are still important, but attendance in those courses should not take away from the main point — the situated learning of professionals.
Analysis of CPD programs needs to move from analyzing individual skills and knowledge toward analysis of environments and practices in them — and how to extend practice scope.
I think this article is very similar to Sfard, A. (1998) ‘On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One’.
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