Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Workplace Learning: Main Themes & Perspectives

By Tracey Lee, Alison Fuller, David Ashton, Peter Butler, Alan Felstead, Lorna Unwin and Sally Walters


This paper provides an overview and critical discussion of some of the main themes and perspectives within existing academic literature concerning workplace learning. The introductory section of the paper outlines why learning at\ud work has become a prominent issue for policy makers, employers and employees and discusses the social and multidisciplinary contexts through which workplace learning is understood and conceptualised. The paper continues in section\ud one, to address the different approaches to learning that permeate current enquiry and research within the field. The discussion here centres upon two paradigms and two associated perspectives of learning and highlights how through these, the term ‘learning’ is subject to multiple definitions. Section two discusses formal and informal learning and attends to the ways in which learning at work has traditionally been associated with informal learning processes.\ud The discussion illustrates how, as a result of ongoing debate, this perspective has been complicated and challenged and that learning at work is now understood to encompass a variety of\ud both ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ elements. The final section of the paper, addresses the relationship between organisational structure and individual engagement in workplace learning.\ud The discussion focuses on how underpinning this relationship is a structure/agency dynamic which, when attended to, illustrates how individuals and their learning contexts of work cannot be considered separately

Topics: HM
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2004b, forthcoming) ‘Current theories of workplace learning: a critical assessment’, doi
  2. (2001). Between Communities of Practice and the Employment Relationship: a perspective from the labour process,
  3. (2001). Changing Questions of Workplace Learning Researchers’, doi
  4. (1996). Consumption and Identity at Work, doi
  5. (2001). Contextualising a new approach to learning: some comments on Yrjo Engeström’s theory of expansive learning’, doi
  6. (2002). Critiquing workplace learning discourses: participation and continuity at work’,
  7. (1999). Culture and Difference in Workplace Learning’,
  8. (2002). Developing pedagogies for the contemporary workplace, doi
  9. (1995). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, doi
  10. (2001). Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical conceptualisation, doi
  11. (2004). Expansive learning environments: integrating organizational and personal development’,
  12. (1999). Experiential learning and the shaping of subjectivity
  13. (1999). Finding a good theory of workplace learning’,
  14. (1998). Flexibility, Reflexivity and Reflection in the Contemporary Workplace’, doi
  15. (2000). Flexible learning, contemporary work and enterprising selves’,
  16. (2004). forthcoming) ‘Learning as Peripheral Participation in Communities of Practice: A reassessment of key concepts in workplace learning’, doi
  17. (2004). forthcoming) A literature Review on Tacit Learning, paper for the Learning as Work project Advisory Group.
  18. (2005). forthcoming) Changing Places of Work, doi
  19. (1998). Fusing learning and work: Changing conceptions of workplace learning’
  20. (1999). Gendered workers and gendered doi
  21. (1999). Global Trends in Flexible Labour, doi
  22. (1999). Guided Learning at Work, doi
  23. (2004). High Performance Management: A Literature Review’, Learning as Work research paper,
  24. (1999). How are the discourses of work-based learning influencing practice?’,
  25. (2000). In Work, At Home: Towards an Understanding of Homeworking, doi
  26. (1995). Knowledge, knowledge Work and Organizations: An Overview and Interpretation’, doi
  27. (2004). Learning and development through the work and working life: Relational interdependence between the individual and social’, paper given at the Centre for Labour Market Studies,
  28. (2003). Learning as apprentices in the contemporary UK workplace: creating and managing expansive and restrictive participation, doi
  29. (2001). Learning Challenges for Knowledge-Based Organisations’, in CIPD and the European Consortium of Learning Organisations
  30. (2001). Learning through work: workplace affordances and individual engagement’, doi
  31. (1993). Narrative Analysis, doi
  32. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’, doi
  33. (2002). Non-formal Learning: Mapping the Conceptual Terrain, A Consultation report,
  34. (2004). Older and wiser?: workplace learning from the perspectives of experienced employees’, paper to be presented at
  35. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one, doi
  36. (1997). Organization Theory, London:
  37. (1978). Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective, doi
  38. (1996). Realist Social Theory: the Morphogenetic Approach, Cambridge: doi
  39. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge: doi
  40. (2003). Sociology, Work and Industry (Fourth Edition), doi
  41. (1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind, doi
  42. (2002). Supporting Workplace Learning for High Performance Working, doi
  43. (2004). The conceptualisation and measurement of learning at work’,
  44. (1984). The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration, doi
  45. (2001). The developing contribution of workplace learning to organisational performance’,
  46. (1991). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, doi
  47. (1980). The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction doi
  48. (2003). The Impact of Informal Learning at Work on Business Productivity, Final Report, Department for training and Industry.
  49. (2004). The impact of organisational structure and practices on learning in the workplace', doi
  50. (2004). The New Generation of Expertise: Seven theses’,
  51. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner, doi
  52. (2001). Tides of change: new themes and questions in workplace learning’, doi
  53. (2004). Understanding Learning at Work, doi
  54. (1999). Understandings of workplace learning’,
  55. (2001). Women, Work and Learning’, doi
  56. (2004). Workplace Learning in Context, London doi
  57. (1999). Workplace learning: developing a holistic approach’, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.