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Continuous development

Lesley Brook —

As people keep learning, they get better at doing their jobs and can cope successfully with more complexity.

People gain skills over time through a wide range of learning experiences, and put their set of skills into practice in combination and in various contexts. Integration between developing and practising skills occurs naturally, because skill development is not linear but cyclical, and practice hones skills.

For his recent PhD research James Harrison sought to increase understanding of this iterative process of skills development. The framework which he developed recognises that the work functions which knowledge is used for are relatively stable and constant. Learning, however, of both knowledge and skills, changes over time as people build on what they have already learnt. A key finding was that jobs which only deliver parts of a function are more susceptible to technical changes such as automation.

Understanding this process can assist with learning design and support. Knowledge acquisition occurs as people are solving problems, doing practical research. Outcomes are not prescriptive but are more open-ended, as learners increase their levels of knowledge and skills.  Learning is applied for the same purpose but learners are increasingly able to cope with complexity and uncertainty in their practice.