4. What is professional learning?


What do you understand by the term 'learning'?

Earlier in Unit 1, reflection and reflective practice are described as a possible pathway to learning but what do we mean by learning?

Brief reflection: Take a moment to consider how you would define 'learning'. Think of some examples of different situations where you felt you learned something important?

The Oxford Dictionary defines learning as

'gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught'

Saljö (1982) surveyed a group of adults and asked them to answer the question 'What is learning'. He came up with a list of five categories

  1. a quantitative increase in knowledge
  2. memorising
  3. acquisition of facts, methods etc which can be retained and used when necessary
  4. the abstraction of meaning
  5. an interpretation process aimed at understanding reality.

    Marton et al, (1993) added a further item

  6. developing as a person.

Go back to your brief reflection above with your definition of 'learning' - would you like to amend it now?

Professional learning

In professional contexts, some writers have suggested that learning is like joining a community of others in the same profession so it is about becoming a part of a 'community of practice' (Wenger,1998). Sfard described two metaphors for learning: acquisition and participation (Sfard, 1998). She suggested that learning could be seen as a combination of 'acquisition' of new knowledge and learning as participation. By participation she was suggesting that learning can be seen as  'becoming' part of a group- a professional community.  If you want to find out more, have a look at the references section for reading suggestions to explore these ideas .


Activity 4.1 Learning as fun!

Blog: Write some brief notes on what 'learning' means for you and give some examples of situations where you have learned something important.

Briefly write about a situation where you have learned something and it has turned out well- something you have enjoyed and utilised well in later life. Post your story in the Chat room and read some of the other postings from colleagues.

◀ Previous Next ▶
↩ Return to main page

[Image: Timetrax under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 Generic license.]

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 Sep 2015, 14:19