Professional Learning and Work-Based Learning: Divergence in Rhetoric, Convergence in Reality

By Eddie Blass.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As the demand for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) expands with the growth of ‘professional bodies’, many Universities and learning providers are offering a combination of short courses and accredited courses to industry in the form of ‘professional and work based learning’. The two concepts are run together as one common theme, such that one could be subsumed within the other, or they are joined in some form of twinning. But should this actually be the case? This paper examines the roots of ‘professionalism’ from the first offerings of Higher Education in medicine, law and the ministry, through the economic development of the term to include anything that is carried out for monetary reward, the social development of the term to include anything that is not ‘amateur’, to the ethical foundations of the word stemming from professions being ‘trustworthy’ and contributing to society. A number of job roles that claim to have ‘professional bodies’ are case studied to ascertain the extent to which they meet the criteria of actually being professionals, or whether they are passing-off as professions to enjoy some of the benefits accrued by the term without the detriments of adhering to the criteria, including accountants, lawyers, managers, teachers and social workers. Given the historical development of the ‘professions’ and the differences between the rhetoric and the reality, the paper goes on to examine what is offered in terms of ‘professional learning’ and ‘work based learning’ and offers a model that demonstrates that while the two may not be mutually exclusive, they are by no means all consuming of each other. Drawing on the examples outlined in the first section, distinctions are drawn between professional and work based learning both in theory and practice, and conclusions are drawn as to the trend towards convergence in the reality of provisions at the expense of the divergence in the ideals. This multidisciplinary paper draws on economic theory, sociology, ethics and educational theory to develop a model for the future that ensures that the roots of professional learning are not lost within the wider field of work-based learning.

Keywords: Professional Learning, Work-Based Learning, Ethics

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 9, pp.59-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 632.325KB).

Dr. Eddie Blass

Senior Lecturer in Professional Learning, School of Education, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK

Having started life as a training and development specialist in industry, Eddie moved into Academia teaching HRM before completing her Doctorate in Education and merging the work-place with education in her current role in Professional Learning.


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