Reply to Christine Wilson’s post (Paloniemi’s article)


FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning

TOPICS: S. PALONIEMI, SKILL FORMATION, Phenomenography, tacit knowledge, workplace learning, intuition, motivation

Reply to Christine Wilson’s post (link to Itslearning)

Hi Christine,

I believe the number of participants was 43, but that doesn’t make a big difference, I think. (-:  The findings of Paloniemi’s phenomenographic research confirm once again that learning is a social experience, and that workers “valued work experience as the main source of their competence.” (p. 444)

However, employees also say that “The accumulation of experience [alone] does not necessarily add to or develop job-competence.” (p.446) Paloniemi recognize that it’d be naïf to “assume that all experience has positive effects on competence construction.” (p.448)

The article views learning from a constructivist perspective that reminds of von Glaserfeld’s ideas, and I think that by recognizing the collective dimension of learning it’s also anchored in the situated learning theory of communities of practice. (p.440)

The theme of collective learning is a common one, which I consistently encountered in many of the articles. For example, Smith cites Stacey: “Social conversation provides the learner with a context and stimulus for thought construction and learning; thus the group contributes to learners’ understanding beyond what they could achieve individually.” (in Smith’s article, p.76).

In Paloniemi’s article, I find particularly interesting what she says about the concept of work experience, which plays an important role in the acquisition of:

  • Practical skills and knowledge required in specific occupations and job-tasks.
  • Knowledge related to the work community and organisation.
  • Knowledge that helps one to assess one’s own work and ways of working and acting. (p.444)

In his article, Smith also makes a similar argument when citing a quote by von Glaserfeld that supports the importance of experience in constructivist terms: “The constructivists hold that learners construct knowledge from the circumstances in which they experience that knowledge (von Glasersfeld, 1987).” (in Smith’s, p.56)

Furthermore, according to Paloniemi, the development of experience becomes the basis of professional identity formation. She recognizes how experience holds together an employee’s learning path by weaving past knowledge into current processes of workplace learning. This overarching use of experience benefits the employees in their construction of both explicit and tacit competences. Paloniemi also says that in such a devised learning process, intuition and learning motivation are valuable ingredients both in the construction and as outcome of experience.


The intercultural dimension in global learning

Greetings everyone from the Pacific Northwest!

I would like to share the following considerations with you, as I believe in the synergy embedded in our cooperative learning experience.

From the very start of our program I read many interesting ideas on possible issues that we as a group may be interested in exploring. Someone (I don’t remember who, and I cannot find that post on Itslearning since there is no way to search posts) suggested that we do so by establishing informal, smaller groups with a focus on specific topics. I thought that had merit, and here I am now, sharing a few ideas within our “small group”.

Let me start with this. The ALGC has a global focus on learning. It also recognizes each student’s responsibility in the shaping of her/his own studies. This course in particular has presented us with a variety of learning approaches, from which I appreciated the shifting of the learning experience from a behaviorist perspective to one that is learner-centered and co-operative in its nature.

The readings on Phenomenography reinforced my belief that we as students have not only a responsibility but also a duty towards the success of the ALGC and of our own studies to inject our perspectives and learning goals into the program. My hope is that we will be able to negotiate ways to enrich the academic content with added shared enquiries stemming from our personal experiences and goals.

I have the feeling that so far many interesting ideas posted in the forums have not been adequately followed through. It appears that they did not develop past the initial exchange of comments. I believe it would be worthwhile to actually pursue some of those ideas and embed them into the group learning experience.

I will start with sharing a few thoughts with you within our small group, in the hope that, as the program evolves, the discussion could be extended to other members of the cohort.

Here are my thoughts.

Aside from a brief acknowledgement in Wenger’s book, I feel that this course has not dealt with the global dimension of learning as listed in the syllabus.

The course will enable students to:

§         Understand global differences in conditions for adult learning through the elaboration and discussion of own experiences of learning

§         Develop understanding of contemporary theories of learning, applied to the area of adult learning, through the analysis and comparison of their central concepts

§         Identify, analyze and discuss global dimensions of learning in how diversity or uniformity is depicted on a local level and how this affects the way people live, think and act in local communities.

I believe I am not the only one who would be interested in exploring this aspect. The collaborative effort for Assignment 2 would be a good opportunity to get us started on this.

Here are some basic considerations:

1) The task of discussing global education is complex.

2) Its complexity is further increased by the cross-cultural nature of our learning context and our diverse experiences.

In addition to the issues typical of an on-line program, when working and studying in an intercultural environment like ours there are some intercultural communication aspects that should be factored in:

  • Cultural differences
  • Personal backgrounds
  • Language differences (even though me are all using English as a way to communicate)
  • The missing out on Non-Verbal Communication patterns that are not part of our communication on Itslearning

Our living, working and studying in different countries is heavily influenced by factors that include cultural values and beliefs, experience, language, and contexts. While we participate in the ALGC, we bring all those factors into the program. However, I do not believe that such a broad intercultural spectrum will simply and magically blend in and transform itself into a new third-culture paradigm. But I also believe that that could be a feasible goal to hope for, and that it will be up to us to understand the processes through which we may create that.

Communication among us

The effectiveness of communication among us is limited. We are up against an established fact: verbal communication only accounts to 7 % of human interaction. In other words, the additional 93% that constitutes non-verbal communication usually employed to clarify meaning is lost. In our case, we rely heavily and exclusively on written communication, which is only a fraction of verbal communication. Furthermore, we all use English as a lingua franca, but we use it differently. Again, even the way we use our chosen language of communication is heavily affected by our personal, contextual and cultural circumstances.


I believe that in order to effectively discuss the global dimension of learning we should start with acknowledging and examining the wide spectrum of intercultural communication issues wrapped around our cohort. I sense that this will bring us closer together as a learning community and will help us adapt the theories learnt so far to the circumstances specific to our collaborative learning experience. (Wenger talks of the “emergence of a community of culture”)

Here are some questions that remain, among many others:

When we talk about global learning, do we envision a metaparadigm for global education, or simply a kind of learning that transcends local boundaries?

If we talk about a metaparadigm for global learning, what are the factors that would need to be examined?

Will we succeed in establishing a shared identity that will be respectful and inclusive of all participants’ cultural perspectives? (Through dialogue? Negotiation? Experiential learning? Acculturation? Assimilation? Enforcement? …….) and maybe use such model for further applications and the proposal of a metaparadigm?

Will our group identity be a mere negotiated collection of all our personal identities, or will it be instead the result of a transformation process that will eventually develop into a new shared identity?



Global education is complex. It is also part of our curriculum.

Here is an inspiring definition I found in the report for the Conference on Global Education in Europe , 2002.

Global Education is understood to encompass Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education; being the global dimensions of Education for Citizenship.
Global education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all.

I understand at least two levels at which we could approach Global ed:

– at the global level (which goes hand in hand with other globalization processes )

– at the personal/group level, as participants in a global education enterprise.

I think that starting from examining some dynamics in our group could be interesting. Have a look at this quick slide show on how the cultural differences among us may impact our effectiveness to communicate.


where is the “social” in phenomenography

Cultural component – contextual constructivism
Hi there,
Since I have a holistic perspective on life, including learning, I like making cross references between the different parts of our class material, even if the forums have been sealed into independent blocks.
I have noticed that the culture is barely considered as an important factor of learning in the reaings on constructivism and phenomenography.
True, the student’s prior experience is recognized as playing a role in how their knowledge will further develop and how teachers should include their students’ experience in their teaching approaches, however the articles and the book do not specifically address what that experience is all about.
In a diverse cohort like ours this is – in my opinion – a topic that should be addressed.
This is relevant to the identification of the learning context. In a broader and more inclusive way, a learner’s culture IS his/her learning context . Culture has been defined in many different ways; for me it is mainly a web of relationships that bind together personal, societal, historical, environmental, geographic, linguistic aspects of a person’s life, both as an individual and as a participant in larger communities.
There is in fact something called contextual constructivism, which concerns itself with the relevance of culture in the learning context. I might be wrong, but I could not find any mention of that in our readings.
Thus, to fully appreciate a learner’s prior experience and integrate that into a meaningful learning environment within the context of that learner’s education I think that culture should be given proper consideration. That would include considering – among other things – a learner’s worldview and cultural values and beliefs. These are no trivial matters, as we may have all found out in our own learning experience.
These would allow us to explore issues of effectiveness within the ALGC environment. The book on The Experience of Learning clearly points out the discrepancy between students’ views of their learning experience and their teachers’. In the book teachers are presented are being oblivious of their students’ individual experience, focusing mainly on the academic side of teaching. The book goes on explaining why things should be done differently in the future. Following that advice, is there a way we can continue our learning experience with a more mindful attitude towards the cultural context of the cohort? How flexible can we be (teachers and students) in adjusting the learning environment to the several cultural contexts of the cohort?

On phenomenography

This second forum is about the second set of readings, which included the book The Experience of learning, Variatio est mater Studiorum, and several pages on Phenomenography.
As I wrote elsewhere, I understand that Phenomenography is “the empirical study of the differing ways in which people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, conceptualize various phenomena in all aspects of the world around us.” ( )

In the material published on the Göteborgs universitet site ( ) I found the following definitions of phenomenography:

“ a descipted recording of immediate subjective experience as reported”
“a description of appearances”
“phenomenography thus evolves as a research specialization aimed at describing conceptions of the world around us”
“phenomenographic analysis”
All this considered, I find it confusing to think of phenomenography as a “perspective” to  be considered alongside constructivism. To me it sounds more like a methodology for qualitative research and…phenomenographic analysis.
Having said that, let me start with sharing some thoughts on what I have been doing for the past two weeks.
I have delved into the readings, in spite of my personal enormous difficulty in doing that. In general, reading is not my preferred way of learning, especially when the material is not my own choice.
To sum up my learning, I can say that most of the content of “the Experience of Learning” suggests a learner-centered model of education. It defines the discrepancy between traditional teachers’ view of learning, and that of their students. It also explores concepts such as deep and surface learning. This particular part of the book content is relevant to my own studies. As a learner, I embraced this program wholeheartedly, as I was under the impression that I could be “the master of my own learning.” Learn needs to be meaningful -so I read in the readings on constructivism. A deep learning approach suits me in that it allows me for opportunities for self-reflection. A surface approach, instead, is generally not very satisfying. However, deep learning makes sense to me only when the amount of information is manageable, otherwise it can turn into a very overwhelming experience, especially when I don’t get to choose the material.

For whatever it’s worth, here is a deficnition of Phen.: (from wiki)

Phenomenography is a qualitative research methodology, within the interpretivist paradigm, that investigates the qualitatively different ways in which people experience something or think about something (Ference Marton, 1986). Phenomenography, an approach to educational research that appeared in publications in the early 1980s (Marton, 1981; 1986), initially emerged from an empirical rather than theoretical or philosophical basis (Åkerlind, 2005).

..a qualitative research methodology.

That Phen. is a research methodology is written all over the place in the pages og the University of Gothemborg, as I pointed out in my other post.

but like you said, we could discuss this till the ned of times and…so what?

How relevant is this part of the discussion ( that I actually initiated) to my own learning? This is by far a more importantt question for me than the (dis)agreement on academic semantics. I do not live my life according to academic definitions, and if I have to make sense of an external reality based on my experience and through my  interaction with others, academic semantics would not serce as a useful learning approach.

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