13:51 11/06/2004 Mathemagenic: Implicit learning
Mathemagenic
on personal productivity in knowledge-intensive environments, weblog research, knowledge management, PhD, serendipity and lack of work-life balance...
        

Implicit learning

Note: these are my working notes, they can change at any moment.


Reading "Work-related learning: elaborate, expand and externalise" by Simons&Ruijters (2001, not on-line, see full reference at the end).

A good article to dive into a language and references of another research stream rather than my usual (US/Canada based) sources on informal learning. The article provides some definitions and distinctions about learning and goes into collective learning at the end. My main interests are in the middle, where the authors talk about implicit learning.

Simons& Ruijters suggest that work-related learning involves (interpretations are mine):

  • elaboration (implicit learning) – no-one-directed
  • expansion (explicit learning) – self- or other-directed, usually through needs-choices-activities-evaluation cycle
  • externalisation – making them visible for others through actions or artefacts

A definition (Cleermans, see full reference below):

Implicit learning is the process through which we become sensitive to certain regularities in the environment (1) in the absence of intention to learn about those regularities (2) in the absence of awareness that one is learning, and (3) in such a way that the resulting knowledge is difficult to express.

Why should individuals or groups become aware of implicit learning? (back to Simons&Ruijters here; my comments are bulleted)

  1. Change in mental models about learning: from learning as being taught to "learning-can-take-place-every-moment-in-my-work"  
    •  Or, in other words changing from someone-in-control to learner-in-control
  2. "…people can only share the outcomes of learning when they actually realize them" (p. 105)
    • Not so sure here. Others can learn implicitly from us. Or is it only explicit sharing?
    • Another point is that a company can only reuse outcomes of learning if they are articulated.
  3. Knowing what and how is learnt is necessary for improving ways of learning.
    • And for reconsidering what was learnt. It's much easier to learn "wrong" things implicitly

I think that the main question after "why artucilalate implicit learning?" should be - "when is it necessary?" Articulation (-> reflecton) takes time (see my post on Learning vs. doing: implicit learning and reflection).

Six ways to act on implicit learning outcomes (based on Figure 8.4., p.106)

  • Leaving them implicit
  • Making them explicit
    • Reflection in action
    • Reflection on action
      • By others
      • By yourself

Techniques to make outcomes of implicit learning explicit (re: self-reflection; references as in Simons& Ruijters; grouping is mine)

  • General approach for articulating outcomes of implicit learning
    • Concrete situation -> what was learnt -> how it was learnt
  • From a learner's perspective
    • (Eraut, 1998) Asking people about changes in their work and then asking to explain the difference
    • Critical incidents technique (close to asking about "pretty good practice" by Marsick, 2001): asking about positive incidents (so people are less defensive) and "pretty good practice" (instead of "best practice" that put too much pressure to excel) and then coming to underlying competencies.
  • From observer's perspective
    • Storytelling, asking people to tell anecdotes and stories from their practice, talking about yourself in the third person.
    • "Walking in the shoes of client" (Marsick, 2001) – asking to take a client's perspective to look at own competencies.
  • Other
    • "Multiple intelligence approach" (Marsick, 2001) – using pictures, drawings, metaphors, movements to articulate what was learnt implicitly.
    • Teaching others
    • Looking into the future
    • Working in heterogeneous groups
    • Thinking of changes and improvements

There is also a part on "increasing implicit learning without making it explicit", but I don't find it convincing.

References:

Leads to follow:

I found out at least two streams of publications on implicit learning: one, more cognitive, is looking at how implicit learning works, and another, more practical, is looking at what to do with it. I'm more on the second camp.

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