"Learning through work" : a case study of a bounded system of learning within an NHS Trust in Scotland
The idea that knowledge is generated from practice and that nurses learn through their work was the starting point for this thesis that examines the system of learning through work for experienced nurses and their managers working in a National Health Service Trust in Scotland. The thesis includes a pursuit of the meaning of work-based learning, life long learning and continuing professional development. The implications for the NHS as a learning organisation and the emerging conceptual issues generated questions about the current system of learning at work for nurses. Thirteen nurses and six managers from five hospitals participated in this case study that included a semi-structured interview, the development of individual picture maps and a second interview. Learning through work, its purpose and the processes experienced by the participants were analysed. Individual and collective benefits and the institutional and organisational omissions and barriers to learning were identified. Many factors were found that influence learning through work. The development of the charity paradigm is an attempt to explain one aspect. Key features such as learning on the job, learning by doing and learning from others are described as part of the informal learning that occurs within the organisation. Other learning, such as defined pathways, combine with informal learning to form the learning through work continuum. These different modes of learning within the system are categorised and related to single and double loop learning mechanisms. The matrix of the learning system within the organisation includes the four major components of the system. It is suggested that achievement of productive integrated learning needs a collaborative approach to curriculum development and learning within organisations that will facilitate collective experiential learning through work.