Mimetic learning at work: Learning through and across professional working lives
This chapter offers an explanatory account of how much, if not most, of professionals' learning across their working lives is held to proceed. That is, through processes of mimesis or as it is referred to here, through mimetic learning at work. This comprises learning arising through processes of observation, imitation and practice that are enacted last engaging in everyday work activities and interactions. An account of professionals' mimetic learning through their work is, therefore, held to be important as, likely, the majority of the learning required to sustain and develop further their occupational capacities occurs through these means across their working lives. Predominately, this learning is generated outside of circumstances of direct guidance of other and more experienced peers (e.g. being taught or guided), in the absence of such others (e.g. teachers or experienced co-workers etc) and away from circumstances where others' intentions for that what is to be learnt shape that learning experiences (i.e. through education programs). So, beyond the many accounts and explanations focusing on learning arising through direct interpersonal interactions with others, there is a need to understand this more personally-mediated process of professionals' learning and development. Hence, rather than professionals' learning through work being largely explained by the actions of others and emphasising direct engagement with others (e.g. inter-psychologically), it is timely to consider further how professionals' learning in the circumstances of work is also mediated by personal epistemologies yet also accounted for intra-psychologically (i.e. within the person). Consequently, to augment existing accounts, it is necessary to offer one that emphasises the more personally-mediated process of learning by drawing upon recent considerations of individuals' dispositions, epistemological beliefs and epistemologies, developments within anthropology, and some fresh bases proposed by developmental and cognitive science. Together, these contributions are utilised to offer an account of mimetic learning and to appraise its potential contributions more comprehensively. Therefore, this chapter elaborates how professionals' worklife-long learning comprises an active and personally-directed mimetic process that is central to their learning and development through everyday work activities and interactions. Beyond these considerations, as a fundamental process of human learning and development, what is suggested here likely has applications in other circumstances (e.g. participation in educational programs), although these are not discussed here. This chapter, in advancing its case progresses, firstly, discusses the need for an account of mimetic learning and how this might comprise. It claims that much, if not the majority, of learning occurs across professionals' working lives arises outside of direct interpersonal interactions with more informed partners. Next, the chapter draws upon historical, anthropological and recent accounts from behavioural and cognitive science to elaborate more fully, the nature and effectiveness of the mimetic bases of learning, including intra-psychological mediation. In conclusion, and in setting out what might comprise foundations for a theory of mimesis at work, three sets of premises are advanced through accounts of: i) processes, ii) outcomes and iii) procedural implications for promoting learning in and through the circumstances of work.
International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning
Technical, Further and Workplace Education