02 SES 08 B, Transitions: Teachers' Learning at Work
“Learning resulting from daily activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. Informal learning is in most cases unintentional from the learner’s perspective (Cedefop, 2014).” Informal learning occurs often in the workplace where systematical support of learning, such as professional development trajectories,
is absent (Hoekstra, Brekelmans, Beijaard & Korthagen, 2009). Informal learning is an important way that individuals construct meaning from their experiences and it refers to activities initiated by people in work settings that result in the development of their professional knowledge and skills (Watkins & Marsick, 1992). Unlike formal learning, informal learning can be either planned or unplanned and structured or unstructured (Lohman, 2000).
Teachers learn great deal through informal learning in the workplace and especially tertiary teachers (Viskovic, 2005). Jurasaite-Harbison and Rex (2010) e distinguish formal, often called professional development, and informal professional learning in the workplace. In their definition the first mentioned occurs when educational innovations are introduced to teachers through systems of workshops, presentations or projects and informal professional learning occurs in interactions among teachers and their reflections upon their practice, sometimes planned and sometimes unplanned. Informal learning could be derived from observing, undertaking trial-and-error experiments, reading magazines, conversing with others, participating in groups, composing stories or reflecting on a day’s events (Cross, 2007).
Workplace learning can be stimulated by the improvement of the social working environment for informal learning. The social working environment relates to the way employees are supported in their learning with peers and supervisors. (e.g. Govaerts & Baert 2011) Existence of leadership committed to learning and availability of resources and time have been found to facilitate informal learning (Ellinger, 2005). Conditions for informal learning could be also activities, situations and tools that are not in the first place aimed at learning but that can be used for learning and knowledge sharing. The conditions for informal learning allow communities of practices i.e. vocational teacher educators and vocational teachers to develop their own preferences in terms of using these learning opportunities.
Within EU, there is more and more stress on improving quality of teaching and of education in different ways. One of the attempts in vocational area is LoiMoCo project (program by Nordic Council of Ministers'), which purpose is to explore, share and co-create more systemic and yet informal models for building vocational teacher educators’ and vocational teachers’ competencies for work and at work. The project aims to support career-long professional development and growth of a vocational teacher educators’ and vocational teachers by offering various kinds of models for exploration and reflection of one's own work in the working environment. The project invites the participating members from universities and vocational institutions to present their models and processes identified and acknowledged as informal learning for work and at work for their vocational teacher educators and vocational teachers. Therefore the question arises how the educators from participating universities, where vocational teachers are taught, and vocational schools saw informal learning, it’s possibilities and challenges.
Objectives of this presentation is to describe vocational teacher educators’ and vocational teachers’ understandings about the informal learning. We posed two research questions: (1) What kind of keywords use vocational teacher educators’ and vocational teachers use describing informal learning? (2) What possibilities and challenges they have experienced using informal learning on workplace?
Cedefop (2014). Terminology of European education and training policy: a selection of 130 terms. 2nd ed. Luxembourg: Publications Office. Cross, J. (2007). Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: San Francisco. Ellinger, A. D. (2005). Contextual factors influencing informal learning in a workplace setting: The case of “reinventing itself company”. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16(3), 389-415. Govaerts N, & Baert H. (2011) Learning patterns in organizations: Towards a typology of workplace-learning configurations. Human Resource Development International. 14, 545–559. Hoekstra, A., Brekelmans, M., Beijaard, D., & Korthagen, F. (2009). Experienced teachers’ informal learning: Learning activities and changes in behavior and cognition. Teaching and Teacher Education 25, 663–673 Jurasaite-Harbison, E., & Rex, L. A. (2010). School cultures as contexts for informal teacher learning. Teaching and Teacher Education 26, 267–277. Lohman, M. C. (2000). Environmental inhibitors to informal learning in the workplace: a case study of public school teachers. Adult Education Quarterly, 50(2), 83-101. Ryan, G. W. & Bernard, H. R. (2003). Techniques to identify themes. Field Methods, 15(1), 85-109. Watkins, K. E., & Marsick, V. J. (1992). Towards a theory of informal and incidental learning in organizations. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 11(4), 287-300.
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