Peter J. Smith , Workplace Learning and Flexible Delivery

COURSE: WORK AND LEARNING – Assignment 1.2 (other readings)

FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning


Peter J. Smith , Workplace Learning and Flexible Delivery (link to Itslearning)

I found this article very interesting, but also complex and deserving a lot of attention, as it covered a lot of ground, from a comprehensive review of concepts relating to work and learning, to practice-oriented solutions for the delivery of effective training programs at the workplace.

In this post I will focus on the relevance of collaborative learning for the flexible delivery of training programs.


Smith clearly promotes a social-constructivist view of both work training and delivery modes. He gives many examples that support such perspective. Here are some citations from the article that may be useful to develop an initial understanding of Smith’s position: (page numbers in brackets refer to the article)

Billet and Rose take a socio-cultural constructivist view on knowledge. They said that, although resource-based learning materials have an important part to play in the development of workplace knowledge, they need to be used in conjunction with the guidance that is available through interaction with others in the workplace. (p. 74)

Smith and Henry found that the vast majority of evidence supported the view that successful on-line training must include interaction between learners and between learners and their instructors.”(p.75)

Trentin proposes a network-based collaborative model that includes active dialogue.(p.75) and suggests that instructors should consider the prominent role of collaborative learning, advocating the combination of the learning of abstract “concepts with direct experience.” (p. 149)

Smith also suggests that flexible delivery of training require the learners’ engagement with both material and the learning community at large. Learning ensues also from – with a reference to Wenger – the “effective use of the community of practice to pursue learning goals.” (p. 80)

Even when discussing delivery of learning programs such as CMC (Computer Mediated Communication), the importance of a social environment is emphasized. Citing Smith and Henry, the articles reminds us that “the vast majority of evidence supported the view that successful on-line training must include interaction between learners and between learners and their instructors.”(p.75)

Stacey also remarks along the same line the importance of collaborative learning adding that “the group contributes to learners’ understanding beyond what they could achieve individually.” (p.76)


My comments on Smith’s constructivist view on learning and delivery concern the issue of “naïve constructivism,”(p.73) which Garrison defines as the perspective of educators who “have a blind faith in the ability of students to construct meaningful knowledge on their own” (cited on p. 78).

In spite of my personal interest in the social-constructivist approach presented in the article, I also realize that such perspective cannot be universally and uncritically applied across different work and learning contexts. In this article, Smith cites research by Warner et al. showing that a majority of Australian VET learners “are not prepared for self-directed learning.” Other research outcomes confirmed that learners have “a low preference for independent learning” and seem to prefer learning situations where “an instructor leads the process” and makes “very clear what is expected of learners.” Smith also cites Brooker and Butler’s research on the Australian workplace supporting the idea that “apprentices rated highly those pathways to learning that involved structured learning and assistance from another more expert worker.” (p.78-79)

My questions are:

How do we accommodate such clear learning preferences into the broader social-constructivist approach?

Could an integrated model such as that proposed by Poel et al. (see the article Learning-Program Creation in Work Organization) serve as a holistic approach aimed at overcoming issues of “naïve constructivism” by providing the necessary platform for learning programs that would be sensitive to the actors’ needs and diverse learning approaches and also to the contextual institutional necessities?

Additional resources: Preparing for flexible delivery, by Peter Smith et al.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: