Social learning – pervasive or choice?
@julianstodd Tweeted an older posting of his on the nature of social learning here and its importance for an organisation in terms of compliance, standardisation and ethics. A few things struck me about the post, not least, its narrow definition of social learning as being collaborative (and hence notionally equal, non-hierarchical) where learning is an emergent property of such collaboration. He also seems to suggest that social learning is a choice that organisations can choose to do or not do rather than a description of how people learn and behave in organisations, departments and teams.
So the issue of control and compliance is addressed in the case of a valve:
Take that problem with a valve: firstly, the organisation has a legal obligation to train you to change it safely. They have to discover the best way, then they have to have that way accredited and verified, then they have to train you, let you practice and sign you off as competent. Within this legal framework, there is little space for social learning, which would be more likely to ask why not try this other way?
You could include a space for more experienced engineers to contribute feedback and thoughts, although this can easily breach legal guidelines (if one of them says ‘just hit it with a hammer’).
Except we know from research that compliance to regulation is negotiated in the workplace – that social learning takes place regardless of organisational intent. Social learning is happening – people are learning the trade from ‘experts’ in interpreting, in that research, and negotiating health & safety compliance. Social learning is not something that is a choice when people work together, it happens anyway and organisations or L&D functions should not forget that. So @julianstodd’s conclusion framed in terms of a case for adoption of social learning is, to me, flawed.
However, it is good to see in the post the recognition of the darker side of social learning:
but there is a darker side to this too in the form of bullying or, in a lesser form, hustling in these spaces. Some people have strongly developed skills in putting their view across forcefully and the transition into the virtual world of social can reinforce the way they do this. It’s well known that people can tend to say things in emails or texts that they would never say in person. We tend to be less inhibited, giving greater potential for conflict or misunderstanding.
This aspects of social learning and communities of practice is often absent from debates on the concepts.
An interesting post providing a partial but useful discussion piece.
Tags: communities of practice, learning, social learning