What is Work-Applied Learning?


The Work-Applied Learning (WAL) model recognises the workplace as the crucible of learning for change. It has been specifically developed for managers to learn, reflect, introduce change and be effective in their organisations or communities.

Work-Applied Learning is an extension of Work-Based Learning (WBL). Whereas WBL focuses on individual and team learning, WAL includes the features of WBL and goes further to enable organisational learning, resulting in the creation and management of organisational knowledge and change.

While learning in the WBL model almost exclusively occurs through work-based projects and reflective practice, the WAL model facilitates learning through action research and action learning, in addition to reflective practice. Both models enable individual effectiveness and departmental change. Diagram 1 shows the comparison between WBL and WAL.

Click to enlarge image – Diagram 1

Diagram 2 shows the phases of WAL, depicting the four distinct stages in the process of creating organisational change through WAL. Phase 1 is individual learning, Phase 2 is team learning, Phase 3 is organisational learning, and Phase 4 is organisational knowledge creation and management. The process of creating change uses the fused action research (AR) method, action learning (AL) process and reflective practice (ARAL) (Abraham et al, 1996).

Click to enlarge image – Diagram 2

Diagram 3 illustrates the cyclical nature of the ARAL process in relation to the four phases of WAL model described above. While the first two cycles use WBL and depict the emergence of individual and team learning and knowledge creation, the later stages of the process utilise the extended WAL model and add organisational learning, organisational knowledge creation and knowledge management to the equation.

Click to enlarge image – Diagram 3

WAL is a change model, based on the premise that learning is the common denominator that enables individuals, teams and organisations to create organisational change. From the research and practice of the use of WAL and WBL, a learning formula and process for WAL has been developed, which is termed the “Work-Applied Learning Formula”.

Diagram 4 shows how the WAL learning formula is used as the participants go through individual, team, organisational learning and the creation of knowledge and organisational change.

Diagram 4: the Work-Applied Learning Formula

The participants go through a cyclical creative thinking and learning process where they:

  • critically reflect on a project (P1) to address a problem or need in their organisation
  • question (Q) how to solve a problem by searching for ideas to help plan a change project
  • reflect and apply relevant knowledge (K) in the planning and implementation of a change project
  • achieve performance outcomes (P2), including project outcomes, process outcomes, and learning outcomes.

 

Work-Applied Learning (WAL) incorporates and builds upon key concepts and methodologies from the following learning and research approaches:

  • Work-Based Learning
  • Action Research
  • Action Learning
  • Reflective Practice
  • Organisational Learning
  • Organisational Knowledge Management

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