16-T3 Learning in and for vocations and professions

Nowadays organizations are dealing with a variety of challenges. Knowledge evolves very quickly and there are continuous technological, economic and social innovations. In this respect, more than before, human capital is the main asset of organizations. Given the dynamic environment of organizations, investment in human capital implies a strategic approach of supporting learning at the workplace, from the beginning onwards (e.g. internships).

Central focus in this course is Learning and Development of professional expertise. This learning already starts in initial vocational education and continues during working life in professional organizations. In this course the following topics will be discussed: I) the genesis of workplace learning, II) how does initial vocational and professional education prepare for professional expertise of (future) professionals; III) which mechanisms and strategies facilitate the syntheses between what is learned in the various contexts (i.e., in particular school and workplace)?, and IV) what can organizations do to support continuous development of professional expertise on an individual, team and network level in order to improve the employment of human capital?

Furthermore, the course pays special attention to current research questions in the field (i.e. can informal learning be supported?, what are outcomes on the level of the individual – competencies- and on the level of teams and networks?) and the challenges related to the different research methods (how to study informal learning?, how to study the outcomes on individual and team/network level?) used to investigate those questions.

This course will stimulate PhD candidates’ conceptual thinking on learning in the workplace and development of professional expertise and broaden their perspective on relevant research questions, research methods and discussions.

Course coordinators:
Dr Renate Wesselink (renate.wesselink@wur.nl)
Dr Simon Beausaert (s.beausaert@maastrichtuniversity.nl)
Prof. dr Elly de Bruijn (E.deBruijn@uu.nl)

course objectives:

After successful completion of the course, the PhD candidates:

  • understand the fundamental issues in the scientific domain of workplace learning in the context of initial vocational education, professional expertise (development) and team/network learning;
  • have insight into different research methods (inquiry about professional expertise; educational design research; case studies; HR tools); 
  •  are able to apply notions from literature into a scientific argumentation beneficial for their own PhD trajectory.

requirementsThe students should have an academic master degree, but no further requirements need to be fulfilled.

maximum number of participants:24

Course Programme

The course consists of 7 modules. The modules are clustered in 2 times 2 days. The first session is an introduction session and the final session is mainly dedicated to presentations of the final assignment. Each module will focus on a theme related to workplace learning.  

Each module will consist of (guest-)lectures, alternated with interactive activities (discussions, small assignments and reflection moments). The PhD candidates have to work in groups and as a group they are going to discuss in depth one topic (of their own choice). First assignment is to deliberately make a choice for a topic related to discussions. We expect that PhD candidates read the obligatory literature beforehand and actively participate in discussions during the sessions.

The sessions will take place in 's-Hertogenbosch in the building of Ecbo (Expertisecentrum beroepsonderwijs – near the Central Station) (3 days, 6 sessions) and 1 day (two sessions) in Tilburg (University) and on the following moments:

  • Day 1 (Den Bosch)- Tuesday September 6 – Module 1 Introduction - (1/2 day – Elly de Bruijn and Renate Wesselink) and module 2 (1/2 day - Arthur Bakker) 
  • Day 2 (Den Bosch) Wednesday September 7 - Module 3 (1/2 day – Ilya Zitter) and Module 4 (1/2 day – Elly de Bruijn and Renate Wesselink) 
  • Day 3 (Tilburg) Module 5 and 6 – Thursday October 13 (1 day – Rob Poell and Piet van den Bossche) 
  • Day 4 (Den Bosch) Module 7 – Friday October 14 – 1 day Case studies and final Presentations (Simon Beausaert, Elly de Bruijn and Renate Wesselink). 

Dates and locations (10:00 hours-17:00 hours):

September 6
Koningsweg 38 Den Bosch (a 10 minute walk from the railway station)

September 7, and October 14, 2016

Stationsplein 14, Den Bosch

October 13, 2016
Tilburg University
Warandelaan 2, Tilburg

The modules have the following focus.

1.      Learning in and for vocations and professions; an introduction (first part of day 1)

Besides being both a practical and theoretical concept workplace learning is a concept that can be defined in several ways; one can see it in both small and broad ways. The approach in this course is the broad way, which means that the course deals with both the process of becoming a professional and that of further development. In initial vocational and professional education the main question will be how to prepare for occupational practice. Internships and the design of a curriculum are determining aspects in this grounding of professional expertise. During working life the issue is that of acquiring professional expertise, maintaining the professional standards and  becoming better professionals. Learning in the workplace is a crucial mechanism in this and therefore relevant to study. The concept of workplace learning will be dealt with in depth and will be a guiding topic through all the other sessions.

Teachers: Elly de Bruijn and Renate Wesselink


2.      Professional expertise development (Second half of day 1)

Professional expertise is complex, situated and dynamic. It consists of what can be analytically distinguished as knowledge, skills, attitudes, ethics and regulation strategies. It is also clear that expertise is not a purely individual characteristic: It is influenced by the environment’s affordances (e.g., technology) and the professional’s participation in a practice or activity system. Measurement is particularly challenging due to the partly tacit and embodied knowledge that professionals have and the integrative nature of what constitutes expertise (knowledge, skills, attitude, ethics). Over the last decades it has become evident that professional knowledge is not only declarative, explicit or codified, but also situated, partly implicit, episodic, embodied, distributed, and often mediated by technology. In this light we can understand the common complaint from occupational and professional practice that graduates from vocational and professional education have acquired a lot of declarative knowledge, which they often cannot use in the workplace. The knowledge taught is often separated from action. Learning processes leading to professional competence and expertise largely remain a black box. What does the integration between knowledge, skills and attitudes actually pertain and how is it promoted? In this session we explore various conceptual frameworks of professional expertise and discuss theories on transfer, integration, (re)contextualization, boundary crossing from the perspective of individual learning processes towards competence and expertise.

Teacher: Arthur Bakker


Set-up of the day 1

10.00h – 10.45 - Introduction to the course (module 1)
10.45h – 11.15 – Get to know each other
11.15h - 11.30h – Break
11.30h – 12.30h - Assignment
12.30h – 13.00h – Final questions
13.00h – 13.30h - Lunch
13.30h – 15.00h – Lecture (module 2)
15.00h – 15.30h –Assignment
15.30h - 16.00h – Break
16.00h – 17.00h - Reflection on assignment and final questions

3. Learning at the workplace in initial vocational education: a learning environment perspective 

Curricula in vocational education are designed on the basis of two main types of learning arrangements, namely, the plan for learning in school and for learning in the workplace. A challenge for curriculum development is creating consistency between different arrangements. Efforts are made to develop curricula that go beyond the school-work distinction. Ideally, a well-designed curriculum for vocational education should be hybrid in nature. It should combine the advantages of school-based and workplace learning arrangements by binding these practices together, without losing the strength of either.


In this session the design perspective, specifically that of a learning environment, is taken to study how to align the different learning arrangements to develop a consistent curriculum in vocational education. A model is introduced of learning environments at the school-work boundary to show how formal, school-based learning and workplace experiences can be closely connected. Besides, different cases will be discussed to see how the model can be used for analysis and design. This session offers a framework that can help to understand the complex nature of vocational education and to design learning environments that cross the boundary between school and the workplace.

Teacher: Ilya Zitter


4.      Exploration of the field workplace learning and explanation of the final assignment

The core of this session is twofold. First, we want to explain the final assignment in details to make sure the PhD candidates go home well prepared to fulfil the final assignment. For the final assignment PhD candidates need to use their own research or a related topic as a starting point to work on a position paper about workplace learning. A position paper focuses on a certain problem or question related to the theme of the course (and the candidates PhD project) and in this paper the PhD candidate takes a position in relation to that problem. The PhD candidates position and related arguments are based on the application of (not just summarizing) of and discussion about related academic literature. In the case PhD candidates do not perform a research related to the field of workplace learning, a for the PhD candidate feasible solution will be discussed with the teachers. Second, this afternoon will be used to make a connection between the different modules. In the first days the candidates get acquainted with workplace learning in the educational setting and in the days that will follow they will be told about workplace learning in professional settings. This session will used to contrast and compare both settings and to distill differences and similarities both in practice and theory.

Teachers: Elly de Bruijn en Renate Wesselink


Assignment – see task 2

Set-up of day 2

10.00h – 11.30h – Lecture (module 3)
11.30h – 12.00h –Assignment
12.00h - 12.15h – Break
12.15h – 13.00h - Reflection on assignment
13.00h – 13.15h – Final questions
13.15h – 14.00h – Lunch
14.00h – 15.00h – Overview of the field of workplace learning (module 4)
15.00h – 16.00h – group assignment – see task 1
16.00h – 16.15h - break
16.15h – 17.00h – reflection on assignment


5.      Workplace learning and career development (First half day 3)

Globalization and the rapid growth of knowledge have put the notion of employability high on the agenda of organizations and employees alike. Many organizations attempt to encourage employees to learn continuously so that they remain employable; however, many employees also have their own ideas about staying up to date. The social and motivational aspects of appraisal or review processes can support employee development. Popular assessment tools are multisource or 360-degree feedback techniques and Personal Development Plans (PDPs). Although they are widely used, the purposes for which they are implemented as well as how they are embedded within HR practices, vary to an important extent. Moreover, research has shown that learning occurs independent of HR tools such as PDPs or training programs. Learning takes place in every-day practice through communication between people, through the exchange of information and feedback, and through other workplace experiences. We will discuss with the participants research results on the antecedents as well as the outcomes of workplace learning and the (lack of) power of HR tools (like training and seminars).

Teacher: Rob Poell


6.      Collective learning in the workplace (Second half day 3)

Learning in organizations can be described as collective. We will explore how different social structures define the learning in organizations. Examples are found in the learning of teams, communities and networks. In many organizations working and learning takes place within teams. Next, it is increasingly acknowledged that competence and knowledge development is contained in social networks and communities. This web of relationships helps both organizations and individuals to develop knowledge and to deal dynamically with problems. Strengths and weaknesses in knowledge sharing and development in these structures are defined. Moreover, a translation is made to what this means for the individual professional guiding his or her learning.

Teacher: Piet van den Bossche

Set-up of day 3

10.00h – 11.00h – Lecture (module 5)
11.00h – 11.30h –Assignment
11.30h - 11.45h – Break
11.45h – 12.30h - Reflection on assignment
12.30h. – 13.15h - lunch
13.15h – 14.15h – Lecture (module 6)
14.15h – 14.45h –Assignment
14.45h - 15.00h – Break
15.00h. – 16.00h - Reflection on assignment
16.00h. – 17.00h - Final questions

 Final session: Case studies and paper presentations (Day  4)

The last session starts in the morning with practical cases from a different set of workplaces. During the presentations of the cases the different theories and literature resources applied will be discussed and the way the research has taken place will be highlighted

Teacher: Simon Beausaert

During the last afternoon, the students will present their position paper they have been working on in the form of roundtables. Feedback on the assignment is given by the participants in the roundtable (orally) and by the teachers (on paper and orally). The feedback is formative in nature so PhD-students are able to learn from it and use it in the next stages of their PhD-project.

Teachers: Elly de Bruijn, Simon Beausaert en Renate Wesselink


Set-up of day 4

10.00h – 12.30h Presentations and discussion of cases
12.30 – 13.00 Lunch
13.00 – 17.00 Presentations of the students (10-12 minutes presentation and 15 minutes discussion) in three roundtables

This is a 3-ECTS credit course, which will be finished by writing a position paper and giving a presentation (about 10-12 minutes) in which a group of PhD’s  (3-4 PhD’s per group) discusses what they have learned and how it relates to their research (research materials, research design, research question, research instruments). Attendance and active participation to the course are conditional. The PhD candidates will receive a mark for the position paper (see evaluation criteria will  be shared during the course). The roundtable serves especially for receiving formative feedback

Course Materials

Module 1 & 4 Learning in and for vocations and professions; an introduction

Required reading

·         Billett, S. (2011). Vocational education. Purposes, Traditions and Prospects. Dordrecht: Springer. Chapter 1 -4.

Optional reading

·         Tynjala, P. (2008). Perspectives into learning at the workplace. Educational Research Review 3,  130–154

·         Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 113-136.


Module 2 Professional expertise development

Required reading

·         Heusdens, W., Bakker, A., Baartman, L., & de Bruijn, E. (2015). Contextualising Vocational Knowledge: A Theoretical Framework and Illustrations From Culinary Education. Vocations and Learning, online first. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12186-015-9145-0 

Optional reading

·         Baartman, L.K.J., & de Bruijn, E. (2011). Integrating knowledge, skills and attitudes: Conceptualizing learning processes towards vocational competence. Educational Research Review, 6, 125-134.

·         Bakker, A. & Akkerman, S. F. (2014). A boundary-crossing approach to support students' integration of statistical and work-related knowledge. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 86 (2), 223-23.http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10649-013-9517-z 

·         Billett, S. (2001). Knowing in practice: Re-conceptualizing vocational expertise. Learning & Instruction, 11, 431-452.

·         Ericsson, K.A., R.T. Krampe, & C. Tesch-Römer (2006) The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. In: Psychological review, 100 (3), pp. 363-406.

·         Harteis, C., & Billett, S. (2013 Firstonline). Intuitieve expertise: Theories and empirical evidence. Educational Research Review, 2013, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2013.02.001


Module 3 Learning at the workplace in initial vocational education: a learning environment perspective

Required reading:

·         Zitter, I., Hoeve, A., & de Bruijn, E. (2016). A design perspective on the school-work boundary: a hybrid curriculum model. Vocations and Learning. DOI 10.1007/s12186-016-9150-y

Optional readings:

·         Aarkrog, V. (2005). Learning in the workplace and the significance of school-based education: a study of learning in a Danish vocational education and training programme. International Journal of Lifelong Learning, 24, 137-147.

·         Billett, S. (2006). Constituting the workplace curriculum. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 38(1), 31-48.

·         Poortman, C.L., K. Illeris & L. Nieuwenhuis (2011): Apprenticeship: from learning theory to practice, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 63, 267-287

·         Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27 (2), S. 4-13.

·         Wesselink, R., de Jong, C., & Biemans, H. J. A. (2010). Aspects of competence-based education as footholds to improve the connectivity between learning in school and in the workplace. Vocations and Learning, 3, 19-38.

·         Zitter, I. & Hoeve, A. (2012). Hybrid Learning Environments: Merging Learning and Work Processes to Facilitate Knowledge Integration and Transitions. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 81, OECD Publishing.



Module 5 Workplace learning and career development

Required reading:

·         Poell, R. F., & Van der Krogt, F. J. (2013). The role of human resource development in organizational change: Professional development strategies of employees, managers and HRD practitioners. In S. Billett, C. Harteis, & H. Gruber (Eds.), International handbook of research in professional and practice-based learning. Dordrecht: Springer.

Optional readings:

To be completed.


Module 6 Collective learning in the workplace

Required reading:

·         Decuyper, S., Dochy, F., & Van den Bossche, P. (2010). Grasping the dynamic complexity of team learning. An integrative systemic model for effective team learning. Educational Research Review, 5, 111-133. doi: 10.1016/j.edurev.2010.02.002

Optional readings:

·         Blankenship, S. S., & Ruona, W. E. A. (2009). Exploring knowledge sharing in social structures: Potential contribution to an overall knowledge management strategy. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 11(3), 290-306.

·         Borgatti, S. P., & Cross, R. (2003). A relational view of information seeking and learning in social networks. Management Science, 49(4), 432-445.

·         Daly, A. J., Moolenaar, N. M., Bolivar, J. M., & Burke, P. (2010). Relationships in reform: the role of teachers' social networks. Journal of Educational Administration, 48(3), 359-391. (optional)

·         Edmondson, A. C., Bohmer, R, & Pisano, G.P. (2001). "Disrupted Routines: Team Learning and New Technology Adaptation." Administrative Science Quarterly 46, 685–716. (optional)


Module 7 Final module: Case studies and paper presentations

Send your paper timely to the teachers.