People have tried to come up with many learning theories for a very long time to know how people learn and to use this knowledge to bring about better learning outcomes be it in schools or in organisations. While they have been many important theories through out history, this paper will focus on the work of three important scholars including Yrjo Engestrom (2011), Jean Lave (1991) and Barry Zimmerman (2000) who focus on “expansive learning theory”, “situational learning theory” and theory of “self efficacy beliefs” respectively. This paper will compare the theories proposed by the three scholars and then link the findings to the needs of modern day human resource management. Body
Engestrom (2001) writes about the theory of “expansive learning”. This theory suggests that people do not learn one dimensionally like a student sitting in a classroom and listening to the teacher, but instead learns in a dynamic environment in many different ways through a series of interactions and collaborations. This theory is informed by the theory of expansive learning first proposed by Bateson (1972). Bateson writes that students learn in three different ways: they learn from the environment; they learn from the ways of dealing with the environment; and thirdly they learn from questioning the ways of learning from the existing environment. Engestrom proposes that true learning comes about only by looking beyond what is already known. As an example, Engestrom gives the case of a health care centre in Helsinki providing health care for children. It was observed by the Doctors and other health care providers that the health care provided by the system was inadequate when it concerned children who suffered from many problems and had to consult many different Doctors and go to many different hospitals. Engestrom writes that the Doctors could not provide adequate care because one did not know what the other was doing and therefore could not provide a holistic treatment. The doctors and other health care providers came up with the “boundary crossing laboratory” which required all of them to come together and collaborate with each other to know what they were doing with the patient and to share the knowledge about the patient so that they could individually and collectively provide better treatment. This meant that each Doctor had to reconcile to the fact that he or she did not know everything and work with others beyond their own hospital to solve a common problem. The second theory was proposed by Jean Lave (1991) and was called “situational learning.” In this concept the person does not learn by going beyond the boundary but learns by entering a situation. This theory suggests that when people are exposed to a pre-existing learning situation where the final end situation is already known they can go through a series of steps where they engage with the community around them in various informal social situations to achieve the final goal. Lave gives the examples of “midwifery” or “alcoholics anonymous” and relates to this form of learning as a form or apprenticeship without any formal process of learning. This theory suggests that a person enters a learning situation and is exposed to a series of small jobs which he learns to master over time under the guidance of the master and interactions with the community including the elders, the customers and other eventually reaches a stage of mastery. This theory suggests that by allowing a person to actively participate in this learning community, one is able to provide an opportunity to identify with the community and also the goal and self direct himself. This theory unlike the expansive learning theory looks inwards rather than outwards and assumes that the master knows everything and the ultimate goal is to become the master. However in the previous case the learning theory assumed that what the master (Doctor) knew was insufficient. Lave suggests that modern day educational practices...
References: Bateson, G, 1972. Steps to ecology of the mind (New York, ballentine Books)
Engestrom, Y, 2001. Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity based theoretical reconceptualisation, Journal of Education and Work, Vol 14, No 1
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Lave, J, 1991. Situational Learning in communities of practice
Zimmerman, B, 2000. Self-Efficacy: An essential motive to learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology, Vol 25, 82-91
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