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Leading Sustainable Learning at Work 

Research and development project 2021 – 2022 

As contemporary working life requires more complex competencies and abilities to solve problems, the employees of organizations are both, motivated and stressed over continuous learning. In this research and development project, we produce a new knowledge on the phenomenon of sustainability of workplace learning. In this context, sustainable learning can be seen as learning practices that produce well-being and widely exploitable and applicable knowledge for the learner or learning community. In addition, we aim to find the answers to the question “what kind of management or leadership support sustainable learning at work”.   The project utilizes qualitative research approach and the data of the study consist of descriptions, conversations and experiences from managers and employees. In addition, a training interventions for managers of the target organisations are conducted. The target organisations operate in the fields of technology, security and healthcare.   

The aims of the project 

  • Increase knowledge of sustainable workplace learning and supporting learning through management 
  • Clarify how intervention that is directed to managers changes their understanding of sustainable workplace learning and supporting it 
  • Produce tools and means for supporting and promoting sustainable workplace learning in Finnish working life 

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” 

David A. Kolb

 

Introduction of Research Project ‘Leading sustainable learning at work’ 

(2021-2022) 

Why workplace learning occasionally motivates and sometimes exhausts people at work? Which conventions of management enhance employees’ and teams’ sustainable learning and development at work? The recently started project of Leading Sustainable Learning at Work (in Finnish joKo) focuses on the complex nature of workplace learning and ways to support it in contemporary working life. Project is implemented in department of Education of University of Jyväskylä, Finland,  and it is funded by Finnish Work Environment Fund. 

The requirements of continuous learning and competence development are present in contemporary work: personnel of different sectors continuously need to learn something new to maintain competence and to tacle daily problem solving situations. There are also many demands for creative activity and development of new practices and products in different organisations. 

According to previous research, learning at work is not always inspiring activity for individuals but also exhausting. Because of the rapid digitalization workplace learning has even been described as one of the occupational health risk in the future. The reasons behind this negative aspect of workplace learning are connected also with the broader changes emerging in the world of work. For example, the digitalization and time pressures at work increase the possibilities and requirements for individuals to take responsibility for their own work and learning. This can also modify the management practices and raises demands to find new ways to support learning and work. This more critical point of view has so far been less emerged in research related to workplace learning. 

In order to ensure qualified practices, the learning of employees should be sustainable: it should enhance individuals well-being, produce deep and long-lasting knowledge and be broadly applicable. In this research project we ask how sustainability of workplace learning is enabled by management and leadership practices and cultures of organisations.  

The data of the project is collected throughout interviews and observations from different organizations: the police organisation, heath care organisation and a technology company. This way the study can produce context related knowledge of sustainable learning and the practices managers can use to support it. In addition, during the project we conduct the training interventions for the managers of the target organisations.  

In many fields it is not anymore sufficient that an employee attends a course every time she or he needs to learn something. But there should also be possibilities to learn during working in the moments when the new knowledge is needed. “

KAIJA COLLIN 

“In this project, we dig deeper into the concept of sustainability. We want to clarify what are the processes and situations of sustainable learning, and what kind of practises of management would enable these situations. This way we can develop models and guidelines that can be utilized in various workplaces.

KAIJA COLLIN 

“Employees talk about ‘throwaway knowledge’ and ‘half-learning’. These refer to knowledge that is poorly enable to utilize and too busy daily work, where deeper learning is not always possible to happen.  “

SOILA LEMMETTY 

Contact:

Associate Professor, PI, Kaija Collin, kaija.m.collin@jyu.fi

Research Coordinator, Soila Lemmetty, soila.j.lemmetty@jyu.fi

Project Researcher, Marianne Jaakkola, marianne.e.jaakkola@jyu.fi

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