chapter  4
14 Pages

A learning practice: conceptualising professional lifelong learning for the health-care sector

WithSTEPHEN BILLETT, JENNIFER NEWTON

This chapter proposes and elaborates a model of lifelong professional learning referred to as a ‘learning practice’ and illustrated through its application to the health-care sector. A learning practice comprises a duality between the contributions to learning provided by engaging in everyday work activities in professional work settings and how professionals elect to engage in and learn through these activities. It emphasises the significance of the learning potential and outcomes that can be secured through everyday professional practice and throughout professionals’ working lives. This potential includes the agentic and critical engagement by professionals as learners with what is available to or afforded them through their workplace. In all, the potential of a learning practice will be best realised through the enactment of supportive practices in these work settings and effortful engagement by learners. In doing so, this model offers bases for directing effort and resources to support initial and ongoing learning, and the reshaping of work practices and work culture. The concept of learning practice has its origins in a submission to a commission overseeing the reform of an Australian health care system (Billett 2006a). Premised on the concept of workplace participatory practices (Billett 2002: 457-81), the model’s core elements comprise the contributions to learning occurring through engagement in everyday professional work activities and professional workers engagement in and learning through their everyday practice. It comprises a duality: on the one hand, what workplace affords workers in the form of invitations to participate in and learn through engagement with workplace activities and interactions, including close and indirect forms of guidance, and, on the other hand, the quality of individual professionals’ participation in their work and learning as exercised by their intentionality, agency and interests. While this model of practice-based learning is applicable to all kinds of work and worker, it seems particularly fitting for healthcare professionals whose work carries expectations of continual engagement in self-initiated and directed lifelong learning. That is, it fits the expectation that professional workers will be agentic in their work and learning.