Learning in the classroom vs. the workplace

Pam Sahota recently posted some personal reflections on learning in the classroom vs. the workplace. I smiled as I read her observation that learning in the work setting helped her recall the concepts much more effectively than hearing them discussed in lectures – a fundamental principle in the design of our Project-Based Learning programs.

So “learning on the job” is effective – what, then, is the value of creating explicit learning projects in the work setting?

The learner derives value from the structure and support which comes from focusing explicitly on learning – a focus which is often missed in the context of pure work demands. Individual reflection, group discussion, and external research all create a deeper understanding which contributes to increased recall and improved application of new concepts and models. †

From an organizational perspective, learning on the job effectively trains up to current work requirements.  It doesn’t necessarily improve an organization’s overall capabilities. In contrast, explicit Learning Projects are designed to bring new concepts and processes into an organization.  As such, they contribute to moving an organization’s focus beyond maintenance into continuous improvement – the goal of all today’s learning organizations.

To learn more, read an overview of our approach to Project-Based Learning.



† An argument can be made that all of these processes should be in effect even absent the context of an explicit learning project, but that’s a subject for another post.