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Comparative Analysis: Practice-Based Learning and Social Capital Compare and Contrast Essay



Prosperity in organisations depends on an assortment of interdependent factors ranging from financial capacity, human capital to continuous professional development that entails knowledge and experience acquisition and sharing among organisational members. There has been a growing literature on accounts of issues pertaining to practice-based learning and social capital as important facets of organisational success as networks are becoming imperative factors that enable learning and innovation in organisations.

Based on presumptions of Krebs (2008), within the knowledge economy, content has never been sufficient and individuals have the ability to access massive amount of content as per their wish. Moreover, as Krebs (2008) postulates that the more an employee progresses up the chain of command, the more it turns difficult to use individual competency as everyone increasingly becomes skilled and experienced at the summit.

This essay seeks to compare and contrast practice-based learning and social capital and their contributions and challenges that organisations face while participating in social networks.

Practice-based learning

Practice-based learning is a form of education attainment process that involves employees engaging in professional studies to enhance their competence at the workplace, while following trends and progress in the professional paradigm (Moore & Pennington 2003). Practice-based learning can also refer to knowledge acquisition program explicitly designed to relate or cope with the professional practice standards of certain line of work that includes work-based or incumbent learning undertaken through specially designed curricula principally for employability and competence (Quality Assurance Agency 2011).

It sounds uneasy to compete when everyone in the organisation is similar, hence a workplace becomes competitive when individuals with differing levels of knowledge, skills, propensity, expertise, and motivation meet together to achieve certain purposes. Krebs (2008) notes that the modern competitive business world demand focusing about employee related factors that provides connections to produce products and services. With the integration of practice-based learning in organisations, employees learn share experiences and new invention concerning their filed of occupation.


Success in organisational development and achievement of objectives extends beyond individual worker contribution as aspects of cooperation through social capitalisation become more influential in modern organisations (DeFilippis 2011). Currently, the concept of social capital has been attracting comprehensive discussions from political scientists, sociologists, and economists who consider it as an essential aspect that spurs knowledge sharing and innovation in organisations.

As define by Baum and Ziersch (2003), social capital may refer to parallel connection between persons or groups that seem to share comparable demographic behaviours or character. Social capital that stands out as the benevolence engendered through fabrics of social relations requires important values of sympathy, trust, and forgiveness amongst participating members (Adler & Kwon 2002). In organisations, knowledge exchanges and information sharing through social networks and other emergent connections contribute significantly to productivity and innovation.

Similarities between the concepts

Practice-based learning and social capital are two facets of social science that have recently emerged as competitive organisational subjects that possess considerable impact on success of organisations (Barrados & Mayne 2003). The two aspects contain some commonality that one need to understand in a bid to distinguish them despite having a close relationship.

Practice-based learning and social capital encompass acquisition of knowledge, skills, and experiences though the processes involved in attaining the knowledge differ in the two concepts (Brix & Lauridsen 2012). Knowledge sharing from the industrial perspective of the two concepts aims at increasing competence among employees or participants to improve their competence in the profession.

Akin to social capital, despite having individualistic interests in professional development, practice-based learning possesses the culture of knowledge sharing among organisational members aimed at enhancing human interrelationships at workplace (Thomas 2009). This assertion entirely means that both practice-based learning and social capital are part of within-employee factors aimed at putting human resource efforts together with intent of knowledge exchange and information sharing to enhance competence in practice.

Despite the fact that practice-based learning can take individual interest within an organisation to enhance expertise at work, the whole processes may involve distinguishing certain profession problems and findings on how to improve situations (Pope 2003).

Having the intention of building expertise and professional development in employees, social capital is part of the deal where workers are capable of sharing opinions, ideas, and perceptions about certain problems that further enhance accreditation as they improve learners’ employability (Baum & Ziersch 2003).

Participants in the practice-based learning hold to the motive of enhancing their understanding about technical and psychological roles and responsibilities within their profession as the social capital also focuses on ways of influences career success (Workman 2007).

According to Important Hoyrup (2004), lessons studied and discussed in both social capital and practice-based learning normally involve more emphases on understanding economic development, community life, democracy and governance, and corporate governance as well as general career problems that require integrated knowledge or cooperative action.

Since they enable organisational members to create intellectual capital that spurs inter-unit resource exchange and product innovation, participation in both practice-based learning and social capital enables participants achieve common objectives (Cervero 2003). The first objective being career development through sharing of experiences and knowledge acquisition from learning, the two facets of social science enable organisations to control labour turnover.

Social capital and practice-based learning enhance individuals experience and competence at the workplace that enable organisations to reduce turnover rates as enhanced employees’ innovation helps them retain their job positions.

Pollitt (2001) and Workman (2007) note that akin to people with advanced knowledge gained from in-office learning, people with better social capital have the opportunity to access better jobs quickly, access information more rapidly, enhance their performance and creativity at work, organize assignments more efficiently, quickly understand workplace surroundings and market place, and adapt to changes more comfortably.

Since both facets focus on building individual capabilities and enhancing better organisations, they protract from company’s knowledge to monitor developments and trends.

Contrast in the two concepts

Notwithstanding their similarities in intent and focus, practice-based learning and social capital seem to differ in a number of distinctive ways. The context at which they occur, the procedure involved in developing them, and the time at which they happen (Bowles & Gintis 2002).

In terms of procedure, a number of disparities may prevail between practice-based learning and social capital in the sense that social capital in organisations entails collaborative knowledge sharing throughout the working process while practice-based learning may involve learning integrated in certain schedules. Social capital, from its definition, is a form of good will or mutual social understanding that remains prompted by a framework of collective relations (Adler & Kwon 2002), that facilitates resource exchange and product innovation through building intellectual capacities among each other.

This assertion means that aspects of collaboration towards achieving knowledge desired to improve organisational progress is eminent while the case of practice-based learning may just involve individual interest in developing skills and knowledge necessary for professional growth. As opposed to the concept to social capital where members acquire knowledge through sharing experiences between peers, workmate, or co-workers, practice-based learning may differ from the perspective of knowledge acquisition where two people have unequal knowledge experiences (Baum & Ziersch 2003).

Practice-based learning is seemingly like comparing levels of knowledge between the student and the tutor where learner employees seek knowledge from institutions with experienced educators. The goal of engaging in practice-based learning might somewhat differ from that of social capital where the main focus of the practice-based learning may entail improving the individuals’ knowledge and experience depending on new innovation, while social capitalism may involve focusing on tackling a problem within the organisation (Baum & Ziersch 2003).

The procedure of practice-based learning may entail learner employees engaging in higher education processes with specified educational pre-qualifications, whereas in the case of social capital, individual’s participation may simply entail forming groups with team members possessing similar motives towards certain goals.

Challenges in organisation’s social networks

Research notes that forming social networks involving workers from the same organisation has always proven challenging based on several socioeconomic challenges that emanate from organisation’s environment (Cervero 2003). Employees in an organisation come from different backgrounds with different levels of knowledge, skills, motivation, or even perception towards their career.

Perhaps the most challenging issue in management has been consolidating organisational members towards achieving similar results as employees are always grown ups with different and contrasting opinions (Cervero 2003). This aspect explains the reason why individuals in organisations possess different abilities that are eminent through their productivity levels that normally differ. Egoism in leadership and member retaliation towards certain aspects of organisational order aimed through social capitalism strategies end up instigating different reactions that create havoc among members.

According to Bowles and Gintis (2002), it requires a comprehensive understanding and studying understanding of structure of social interactions to comprehend important values of confidence, collaboration, and generosity stressed or embedded in social capital literature. This assertion holds because different individuals normally exhibit different levels and types of social capital.


Modern organisations seem to have changed their approaches towards human resources in the sense that they no longer view employees as ordinary workforce, but instead individuals with diverse intellectual abilities that when properly managed through social interaction, can yield positive changes in organisations. Aspects of communities of practice, practice-based learning and social capital are among major social capitalism aspects that have consumed literature in social science with each having equal significance in human resource management.

Practice-based learning and social capital were major aspects of discussion to this comparative analysis. Practice-based learning underscores a scenario where individuals engage in further learning while in office, popularly known as work-based learning, to enhance individuals’ competence based on trends in the employment market.

Social capital is goodwill engendered through the fabric of social interactions to enable sharing of resources, knowledge, and professional experiences between workmates, peers, or even community members. The two facets of social science are similar in terms of their intent, which is knowledge sharing, and differ in their occurrence, principles of integration, and progress.

Reference List

Adler, S & Kwon, W 2002, ‘Social Capital: Prospects for a New Concept’, Academy of Management Review, vol. 27 no. 1, pp. 17-40.

Barrados, M & Mayne, J 2003, ‘Can Public Sector Organisations Learn?’, OECD Journal on Budgeting, vol. 3 no. 3, pp. 1608-7143.

Baum, E & Ziersch, M 2003, ‘Social capital’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, vol. 57 no. 2, pp. 320–323.

Bowles, S & Gintis, H 2002, ‘Social capital and community governance’, The Economic Journal, vol. 112 no. 1, pp. 419-436.

Brix, J & Lauridsen, K.M 2012, ‘Learning styles and organisational development in practice: an exploratory study of how learning styles and individual learning strategies can facilitate organisational development’, International Journal of Innovation and Learning, vol.12 no. 2, pp. 181-196.

Cervero, R 2003, ‘Place matters in physician practice and learning’, Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, vol. 23 no. l, pp. l0-18.

DeFilippis, J 2001, ‘The myths of social capital in community development’, Housing Policy Debate, vol. 12 no. 4, pp. 781-806.

Hoyrup, S 2004, ‘Reflection as a core process in organisational learning’, The Journal of Workplace Learning, vol. 16 no. 8, pp. 442-454.

Krebs, V 2008, ‘Social Capital: the Key to Success for the 21st Century Organisation’, IHRIM Journal, vol.12 no. 5, pp. 38-42.

Moore, E & Pennington, C 2003, ‘Practice-Based Learning and Improvement’, The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, vol. 23 no. 1, pp. 73-80.

Pollitt, C 2001, ‘Clarifying Convergence: Striking Similarities and Durable Differences in Public Management Reform”, Public Management Review, vol. 4 no. 1, pp. 471-492.

Pope J 2003, Social capital and social capital indicators: A reading list. Web.

Quality Assurance Agency: Key aspects of practice-based learning in teaching, nursing and social work in Scotland. 2011. Web.

Thomas, R 2009, ‘The leadership lessons of crucible experiences’, Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 30 no. 1, pp.21–26.

Workman, B 2007, ‘Casing the joint: explorations by insider-researcher preparing for work-based projects’, Journal of Workplace Learning, vol. 19 no. 3, pp.146–160.

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