Workplace Training: Informal Learning?

Workplaces as Centres of Inquiry

Workplace learning and experiences are often seen as informal and subsequently ‘informal learning’ occurs. Billet (2002) states that an educational workplace pedagogy exists, and that learning does not just occur in schools and higher education. Workplace education delivers structured goal-directed activities and work practice relevancy so this ‘informal’ tag is actually incorrect. Learning is deemed as being “interdependent between the individual and the social practice” (Billet, 2002). This structuring of learning experiences is shaped and directed towards sustaining the continuity of current practice.

“Workplace practices and affordances, are dynamic, as their tasks, goals, interactions, participants and relations are likely to be constantly changing” (Billet, 2002, pg. 64).

Learning through work, and the participation and engagement in the social practice is an essential aspect. Just think of the importance of role modelling to set the culture of your workplace environment. Vocational learning is often considered of lower quality than education provided by educational institutions, but with current lifelong learning policies, the role of workplace learning is essential. Workplace participation and sustaining practice are required for positive learning experiences and outcomes. Workplace training can vary between ad-hoc to over structured teaching, which have contributed to some of the negative terms for workplace learning. If we think of the learners motivation to learning, there will likely be a difference in the learners level of engagement of learning in those opportunities chosen by the individual to that of enforced learning (such as mandatory training). Just think to the last time you went to an education event of your choice and compare to one you were ‘encouraged’ to attend, likely you experienced very different motivators. The workplace will have more mandatory training requirements so enthusiasm is likely to be low for such training, as the educator you will need to find a way to make the training meaningful for the participants.

Pathways of learning activities as part of a constructivist approach for skill development are approaches in contemporary work settings. Mentoring and apprenticeships are important learning pathways to navigate workplace practices and learn from experienced practitioners, again part of the social learning experience. Continuity of social practices and the opportunities of unintended learning is a product of these mentorship experiences in the work setting.

Relevancy in Nursing 

Nurse training is forever looking for the right balance between providing higher education and workplace experience for nurse training. Finding the perfect mix of theoretical with the hands on learning experience in the actual clinical setting is the overall aim. The mentor model is an essential part of nurse training in providing learning in the workplace setting. Workplace education is commonly more hands on and has a practical focus, combining theoretical and clinical. With simulation increasingly part of formal educational approaches to nurse training, a more hands on experiential learning approach is being embraced over the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ lecture approach. The multi-disciplinary teamwork and bonding that can occur in workplace training is vital as part of building a positive team culture.

Educator Program Aims

  • Professional growth and change (transformative practice).
  • Personal Change- Reorientation of values of attitudes.
  • Self-esteem linked to workplace confidence.
  • Teamwork and community of practice.


Billett, S. (2002). Critiquing workplace learning discourses: participation and continuity at work. Studies in the Education of Adults, 34(1), 56-67.

Harteis, C. & Billett, S. (2008). The workplace as learning environment: Introduction