Professional Learning to Tackle Global Development Challenges

Littlejohn, Allison; Charitonos, Koula; Kaatrakoski, Heli and Seal, Timothy (2019). Professional Learning to Tackle Global Development Challenges. In: Pan-commonwealth Forum 2019, 9-12 Sep 2019, Edinburgh.


The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals represent a world-wide endeavour to reduce inequality through addressing global challenges. Tackling global challenges requires scaling-up and accelerating professional learning in international development contexts worldwide.

The literature on professional learning suggests that conventional forms of workplace learning, such as Training, Continuing Education and Online Learning, enable large numbers of people to reach a specific level of competency. However, this does not take into consideration complicated situations where workplaces have to be adapted continually to address complex global challenges.

This presentation outlines an empirical study aiming to reduce the global challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), the ability of bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. The study is funded through the UK Government’s Fleming Fund. AMR poses a catastrophic threat on a global scale. Drug resistant infections are on the rise with evidence that globally at least 700,000 die annually because of drug resistance.

The study identified a range of skills and knowledge gaps in health settings in a low-to-middle-income country. These skills and knowledge can be learned through online and ‘blended’ learning, integrating online with face-to-face, work-based training. However, learning skills and knowledge in itself is not sufficient to tackle AMR. For capacity building to be effective, skills training has to be accompanied by a reflection on and re-organisation of the work environment. This involves examination of current and future roles and work practices and making necessary adjustments to work processes and practices.

These findings offer a new perspective on capacity building for global challenges, arguing that professional learning must extend beyond knowledge and skills development, to include reflection on and making adjustments to the work system. These reflections can be supported through a Professional Learning Framework that can be applied generally across work based learning, helping to address a range of International development challenges.

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