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Human Resources Development: Theory in Practice Essay

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Updated: May 8th, 2019

The three articles in question dwell upon learning, individual as well as organizational. The articles provide valuable insights into the development of effective learning strategies which can be applicable at work place. It is necessary to note that the three articles focus on different aspects of learning. Thus, Wenger (2000) focuses on theoretical issues in organizational learning and highlights particular implications of his findings.

Zimmerman (2000) dwells upon effectiveness of learning in students providing specific examples of strategies motivating students to learn. Engeström (2001) provides insights into certain theoretical approaches and suggests some effective learning strategies while depicting a particular case of health care professionals in Helsinki. Though, the articles are very different, the strategies and theoretical approaches provided tessellate into a mosaic which can be applicable at any work place.

It is necessary to take a closer look at each article to evaluate their effectiveness. Wenger (2000) focuses on organizational learning. The author claims that “success of organizations depends on their ability to design themselves as social learning systems and also to participate in broader learning systems” (Wenger 2000, p. 225). The researcher also singles out three elements of a learning system, i.e. communities of practice, boundaries and identities.

The author illustrates the ways these theoretical approaches can be applicable at work place. Zimmerman (2000) focuses on individual learning issues. The researcher claims that combination of self-efficacy and self-regulated learning positively affects students’ learning process fuelling motivation which, eventually, leads to better academic achievements.

Engeström (2001) provides insights into the history of development of active theory and expansive learning. He examines the concept of the expansive learning answering a number of questions concerning subjects and objects of learning, motivation and learning strategies used. The author also defines five principles of activity theory:

activity system as unit of analysis, multi-voicedness of activity, historicity of activity, contradictions as driving force of change in activity, and expansive cycles as possible form of transformation in activity. (Engeström 2001, p. 133)

As has been mentioned above, the articles are different as they touch upon different aspects of learning. Thus, Zimmerman (2000) focuses on individual learning. More so, the article is very empirical. It is based on particular surveys held in certain colleges. The author focuses on factors that affect students’ motivation and learning outcomes.

However, the other two articles concentrate on organizational learning rather than on individual learning. Furthermore, unlike the article by Zimmerman (2000), Engeström (2001) and Wenger (2000) provide insights into central theoretical approaches used to analyse organizational learning. Only after this the authors provide particular implications that can be employed at work place.

At this point, it is important to add that Wenger (2000) provides a generalized approach. The researcher outlines a number of generalized concepts which can help organize the process of learning effectively. At the same time, Engeström (2001) highlights specific strategies used in a particular case with certain generalizations which can help exploit the same strategies in a variety of settings.

Apart from differences, the articles have much in common. The authors claim that motivation is central to the process of learning. The researchers also provide specific patterns which can help motivate learners, be it an individual learner or a learning system. Notably, articles by Engeström (2001) and Wenger (2000) have quite a lot in common whereas Zimmerman (2000) stands out from the two other articles.

Thus, the two authors highlight similar concepts. For instance, Engeström (2001) states that learning systems should be analysed as a complete entity and Wenger (2000) stresses that effectiveness of organizational learning depends largely on the organization’s ability to design itself as a complete system.

Furthermore, Wenger (2000) suggests the concept of boundaries which is similar to the concept of “multi-voicedness” mentioned by Engeström (2001). Wenger (2000) stresses that boundaries being sometimes hardly noticeable enable different groups of employees to interact successfully.

Different skills, aspirations, visions and opinions make people look at a problem from different angles, and this inevitably leads to an effective solution. Admittedly, this is what Engeström (2001) means introducing his concept of multi-voicedness. Different people defend their viewpoints and in the course of discussion or interaction they come up with specific solutions to a problem.

As has been mentioned above, the articles contain information which can be employed at work place. Zimmerman (2000) claims that self-efficacious students who regulate their learning process achieve significant academic results. Thus, employees should be aware of their progress and their performance.

Employees should also understand a particular result they are trying to achieve. One of the most valuable findings presented in the article is correlation between self-efficacy and verbal persuasion. Thus, Zimmerman (2000, p. 88) points out that verbal persuasion has quite a limited impact on development of a learner’s efficacy as the learning outcomes are not witnessed but described and, therefore, “depend on the credibility of the persuader”.

Human resources development specialists as well as leaders and management should understand this and try to help learners develop their self-efficacy by exposing employees to specific experiences. This comprehensive approach can help employees perform better and remain motivated.

Engeström (2001) also provides a variety of helpful techniques to be used at work place. The author presents quite a new approach, expansive learning, in a very particular way. Putting the four questions, the author explains what should be taken into account during the learning process.

Thus, HRD professionals should think of the object of learning. The HRD specialist should understand perfectly well the outcome of learning. This can be important as HRD specialist should be able to explain the learning outcomes to learners to help them develop self-efficacy.

Furthermore, subjects of learning should be taken into account. It is crucial to understand what kind of people are learning. This will help come up with an answer to the question concerning the subjects’ motivation. When the HRD specialist has understanding of who the learners are, it is easy to predict their aspirations and motivations. Finally, having all the data mentioned above, the HRD specialist can choose the right learning techniques.

As far as the article by Wenger (2000) is concerned, it is possible to note that it is the most comprehensive article which can become a kind of guidance for a HRD specialist. The article helps understand factors that influence the development of learning systems. Admittedly, the article does not contain a number of particular HR techniques which can be applicable at particular work place. However, the article provides a framework which fits nearly all settings.

Of course, one of the major valuable parts of the article which can be of use for HRD specialists deals with elements of learning systems. Thus, HRD specialists should correctly identify communities of practice. This will enable the HRD professional to choose the right learning strategy. Boundaries and identities should also be taken into account as these factors considerably shape employees’ motivation and the overall learning process.

Therefore, the article by Wenger (2000) can be regarded as the major source to use when considering organizational and individual learning. However, it is also necessary to add that the three articles are equally valuable for HRD specialists. To be more precise, a combination of central concepts provided in the three articles should be exploited by HRD specialists.

Thus, the three articles can be used as a kind of guidance while developing three stages of a learning process. First, the framework suggested by Wenger (2000) should become a basic approach used to develop employees’ learning. This will be the first stage. The employees involved should be seen as a complete learning system as any group of employees is a part of the overall learning system, i.e. organization. The concepts of communities, identities and boundaries should be taken into account.

The second stage will be based on the article by Engeström (2001). This stage will be most comprehensive. Thus, the HRD specialist should put the four questions considered in the article. Basically, the article can be regarded as a particular plan to follow while designing a learning process. The article will help to work out specific learning techniques effective for a specific group of employees.

Finally, the article by Zimmerman (2000) will help at the final stage of the learning process development. To certain extent, this stage has a lot to do with motivation. The HRD specialist should be ready to make employees aware of the learning goals and outcomes. Employees should be aware of the scope of issues which will be covered. This will help them develop self-efficacy which, in its turn, will help them learn effectively.

On balance, it is possible to note that the three articles are different though they dwell upon the issues concerning learning. Zimmerman (2000) deals with individual learning whereas Engeström (2001) and Wenger (2000) focus on organizational learning. Irrespective of differences, the three articles employ similar concepts. The combination of the central concepts articulated in the articles can help HRD specialists work out learning strategies and techniques which will help employees develop and successfully complete their tasks.

Reference List

Engeström, Y 2001, ‘Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization’, Journal of Education and Work, vol.14, no.1, pp. 133-156.

Wenger, E 2000, ‘Communities of practice and social learning systems’, Organization, vol.7, no.2, pp. 225-246.

Zimmerman, BJ 2000, ‘Self-efficacy: an essential motive to learn’, Contemporary Educational Psychology, vol.25, no.1, pp. 82-91.

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