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Wenger, Zimmerman, Engestrom’ Views on Human Resource Development Essay

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Updated: Jan 28th, 2020

Contrasting Views about Learning

In essence, there are various differences on learning methodologies as discussed by the three authors. After analysing the three articles written by the different scholars, it is evident that they emphasize different methodologies of learning.

This emphasis is an indication that the three authors consider the respective methodologies with a certain weight. As such, a learning methodology is one of the outstanding differences when it comes to their perspectives on learning.

First, Zimmerman (2000) gave a special attention to the concept of self-efficacy and the motivation it availed to learners. In his work, Zimmerman indicated that self-efficacy had evoked crucial and vast concern over the last ten years.

In this case, he termed self-efficacy as the most proficient predictor of academic success and a source of inspiration. In addition, the author differentiated this concept evidently as the superior tool of measurement over other evaluators such as self-concept as well as the locus of control.

From a critical point of view, it is evident that the researcher considers the concept as the most proficient evaluation mechanism. In addition, it implies that the author considers motivation as an essential ingredient of academic success.

In fact, he stated that the students’ attitude towards their capability affects their actual academic outcome. In that regard, therefore, it cannot be disputed that Zimmerman paid more attention to motivation and self-efficacy than other methodologies of learning and evaluation.

This focus is very different from the considerations and exemplification of Wenger (2000) and Engestrom (2001) as illustrated in their works. In particular, Wenger (2000) viewed learning from an organizational and a pretty collective perspective.

Unlike Zimmerman (2000), the author did not discuss or consider learning as an individual venture but a group-based undertaking. In the same light, he did not share the idea that individual motivation was the key determinant of successful skill acquisition.

Instead, he indicated that the capability of people to learn and acquire new skills as well as increase their body of knowledge was determined by their ability to conceive social learning system. From a critical point of view, he believed that learning could not be separated from the socialization and interactional characteristic of human beings.

In fact, the study provided a social-based definition of learning in order to portray the idea of a systematic approach. In that regard, it became evident that learning occured only when the people were willing to take part in the group’s activities.

Importantly, unlike Zimmerman and Engestrom, Wenger indicated that learning occurred within the limits of the social circles. While expounding on this aspect, the author revealed that learning was obtained from communities of practice which were defined by boundary processes in the social context.

In turn, the communities of practice shaped the identity of each participant in accordance to the role they played when interacting with each other. As such, it could be implied that Wenger viewed learning as part of a common life process. He did not treat life as something less than its course.

Unlike Zimmerman and Engerstrom, he focused on the bigger picture as far as learning was concerned. This aspect was based on the fact that the skills were acquired mostly from other people. As such, we must interact first before learning from them and acquiring new skills as well as bodies of knowledge.

In contrast to the approach used by Zimmerman and Wenger, Engerstrom approached the methodology of learning from a theoretical perspective. Although he shared a similar focus with Wenger due to the organizational approach to learning, he did not share the idea of learning as part of the broad social systems.

Instead, the author focused on how cultural-historical activity theory was applied in organizational learning. As such, it was evident that he combined the idea of organizational learning with the challenges incurred during the application of cultural-historical theory.

In a nutshell, the cross-cultural theory is concerned with the manner in which people’s thoughts are connected with their actions. In this regard, it states that every learning venture must answer the following questions.

  1. Who is learning?
  2. What are they learning?
  3. How do they learn?
  4. Why are they learning?

This attribute implies that the author views education from multifaceted perspectives which is achieved in the presence of the subject, lesson, rationale, and means of acquiring skills in regard to either organizational or individual perspectives.

From this perspective, therefore, the author differs with the two authors profoundly even though he seems to agree with Wenger that learning is part of the interactional day-to-day life where people learn from each other.

Comparative Views about Learning

Although all the perspectives presented by the authors are essentially different, it is evident that there are some similarities existing from the manner in which they view learning. Importantly, it is clear that all the authors accept the importance of the learner in the process of acquiring skills.

All of them attach some importance on the involvement of the subject in unique and diverse ways. Zimmerman indicated that learning depended on self-efficacy. In this case, he expounded that the level of an individual’s motivation affected their output on performance and skills’ acquisition.

As such, it is evident that this author appreciates and attaches the importance of the learner’s attitudes in the process of acquiring skills. Wenger, on the other hand, focused on the use of social systems in the process of learning. In that regard, the interactional and cross-sharing of information becomes a critical aspect in his perspective of learning.

Although such groups are the pertinent factor of learning in his view, it is clear that the social learning systems are made of individual people. The author argued that the interaction among individuals gave them identity according to their roles in the groups.

This factor implies that the learner or the learning groups play a fundamentally vital role in the entire process. In addition, it means that the author values this important aspect of learning and recognizes its high significance.

Lastly, Engestrom (2001) also indicated and appreciated the importance of the learner in the process of skills acquisition but in a hidden and unique way. However, a close look at the exemplifications that were provided showed that he had considered this factor extensively.

In particular, he indicated that every learning theory must answer several questions. Among those questions, the first inquiry investigated the subject of learning and answered the issue of who was learning.

Implications of Above Perspectives in Human Resource Development

The three perspectives can be used to facilitate effective learning in organizations. In fact, the combination of the three methodologies can provide organizations with the opportunity to make critical progress on acquisition of skills.

First, the social learning systems make critical implications on the organizational management and administration. In essence, the organizations can use social learning for the sake of acquiring more skills. This cross-sharing makes the teams acquire the capability of innovations and development of new ideas.

In addition, self-efficacy and individual motivation can be applied to provide an inspirational environment in the organization. In essence, motivation is an important aspect since it determines the output of an individual.

In turn, the output of the individual employees encourages them to learn and acquire skills to facilitate better performance. As a result, the organization should first cultivate individual motivation before proceeding to nurture the acquisition of collective skills.

Having nurtured the motivation and self-efficacy of the organizational members, the administrators can implement the idea of Wenger (2000). In order to recall, Wenger stated that learning takes place in the form of social systems where people interact and enlighten each other.

With this in mind, the organizations can apply this principle to help in the acquisition of skills. As such, if the author believes that learning can take place through well-organized social systems, companies can adopt a team-based learning system. In fact, this can translate to the use of inter-professional learning model.

In this model, different professionals interact and share their skills. This attribute is fulfilled by the cross-sharing of information in order to solve specific problem. As such, they use multidimensional knowledge and skills in order to solve the same problem.

More Useful Perspectives at Work

Although the three authors present valid arguments to explain their perspectives about learning, there are some views that resonate with the organization’s setup more than others. In the working environment, the social system aspect is very important on the acquisition of skills.

In this case, the perspectives argue that learning occurs when human beings interact and share information to increase the knowledge base. In essence, this is more relevant perspective when it comes to organization.

This relevance is occasioned by the fact that organizations are dependant to the process by which its employees interact and share knowledge. Importantly, the innovation capability of an organization is based on the intensity of cross-sharing.

If an organization is able to make departments and individuals work together in the spirit of harmony, there is a very high chance of making the necessary progress in learning. In essence, the community of practice and community boundaries also play a fundamental role in the process of learning in organizations.

The motivational perspective is also very important to the organization’s performance bearing in mind the importance of personal commitment to work. In this case, it is important to understand that although organizations operate in terms of teams and groups, the unit components include individuals.

In addition, the performance of the individuals determines the entire output of the organizations (Lamberson 2010). As such, this aspect of self-efficacy plays a fundamental role in the coordination of the organizational teams to achieve their goals as per the time and terms stipulated.

Therefore, the combination of social learning systems and concept of self-efficacy becomes one of the most crucial pairs of learning strategies. In this regard, the overall effect is the conception of well-coordinated teams that can collaborate easily and make the necessary outcomes.


Engeström, Y 2001, “Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization”, Journal of Education and Work, vol. 14, no. 1, pp.133-156.

Lamberson, P 2010, “Social Learning in Social Networks”, The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 132.

Wenger, E 2000, “Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems”, Organization, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 225-246.

Zimmerman, B 2000, “Self-Efficacy: An Essential Motive To Learn”, Contemporary Educational Psychology, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 82-91.

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