Electronic technicians' informal learning in the workplace
This professional practicum is concerned with what informal learning is happening in the workplace and how the underlying forces and tensions at work produce barriers to learning, as well as facilitate that learning. The practicum used a theoretical framework based on a social constructivist paradigm and the concepts of situated learning and communities of practice. This framework worked well in this study because "learners inevitably participate in communities of practitioners and ... mastery of knowledge and skill requires newcomers to move towards full participation in the sociocultural practices of the community" (Lave & Wenger, 1993, p. 29). A pilot study was conducted with a group of eight electronic technicians prior to the main study and provided a different picture from that of the group of eleven technicians in the main study. This provided a rich source of comparative data and both the pilot study and the main study were of fundamental importance to the outcome of the practicum.
The implication is that informal learning at work is important for all stakeholders: workers, supervisors, managers, the organisation and the wider community. I found that the way the workplace is structured and work is completed has a significant impact on the level of informal learning that is allowed to occur in the workplace. A basis for a supportive environment for informal learning is provided when all stakeholders understand the importance of informal learning at work, accord workers basic respect and value workers' skills and knowledge. If workers can form communities of practice under a supportive organisational structure, mutually beneficial learning will occur and there will be an increase in the potential for workers to be happy and productive in their work.