Networked Professional Learning: An Introduction

Littlejohn, Allison; Jaldemark, Jimmy; Vrieling-Teunter, Emmy and Nijland, Femke (2019). Networked Professional Learning: An Introduction. In: Littlejohn, Allison; Jaldemark, Jimmy; Vrieling-Teunter, Emmy and Nijland, Femke eds. Networked Professional Learning: Emerging and Equitable Discourses for Professional Development. Research in Networked Learning. Springer, pp. 1–11.



Over the past decades a new form of professionalism has emerged, characterized by factors of fluidity, instability and continual change (Beck, 2000; De Laat, Schreurs, & Nijland, 2014). These factors diminish the validity of traditional career trajectories, where people would learn the professional knowledge they needed to follow a vocational pathway (Billett, 2001). New forms of professional development that support agile and flexible expansion of professional practice are needed (Tynjälä, 2008). Ideally these forms of development would be integrated into work, rather than being offered as a form of training in parallel to work (Felstead, Fuller, Jewson, & Unwin, 2009). Through the integration of work and learning, professionals could develop new forms of practice in efficient and effective ways.

At the same time, the digitization of work has had a profound effect on professional practice (Huws, 2014). This digitization opens up opportunities for new forms of professional learning mediated by technologies through networked learning (Littlejohn & Margaryan, 2014). Networked learning is believed to lead to a more efficient flow of complex knowledge and routine information within the organization (Coburn, Mata, & Choi, 2013; Reagans & Mcevily, 2003), stimulate innovative behaviour (Coburn et al., 2013; Moolenaar, Daly & Sleegers, 2010; Thurlings, Evers, & Vermeulen, 2014) and result in a higher job satisfaction (Flap & Völker, 2001; Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas, 2006). In this respect, networked learning can be perceived as an important perspective on both professional and organizational development.

There is evidence that professionals learn in informal networks, yet networked learning has been largely invisible to professionals, managers and organisations as a form of professional development (Milligan, Littlejohn, & Margaryan, 2013). One reason could be because learning in networks requires specific competences that have to be acquired either through practice or in educational training, bringing new forms of professionalism.

Another reason could be because learners may determine their own learning pathways, rather than relying on a teacher or trainer to guide them. These pathways may include observing colleagues who have greater expertise (Billett, 2011) or learning through working (Eraut, 2000). In these situations, learners may seem invisible. Alternatively, they may stray across traditional boundaries as they learn (Daniels, Edwards, Engeström, Gallagher, & Ludvigsen, 2013). This book, Networked Professional Learning, critiques the potential of networked learning as a platform for professional development. The concept of learning through work is, therefore well established and the use of the network as a medium for learning expands beyond the notion of ‘Professional Development’ which often is considered as formal, structured learning towards a more fluid and embedded form of learning for work which we term Networked Professional Learning.

The book draws together the work of 35 experts across 6 countries spanning 3 continents, including Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia, Israel and the UK. The book will be of interest to researchers in the area of professional and digital learning, higher education managers, organizational Human Resource professionals, policy makers and students of technology enhanced learning. A unique feature of the text is that it not only provides examples of Networked Professional Learning, but it questions the impact of this emerging form of learning on work practice and interrogates the impact on the professionals of the future. To achieve this goal, the book is structured into three sections that explore networked professional learning from varying different perspectives, questioning what are legitimate forms of networked professional learning (Part 1 on Networked Professional Learning across the Professions), how new forms of professional learning impact the Academy (Part 2 on Higher Education) and what is the value creation that Networked Learning offers education professionals (Part 3 on Teacher Education).

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