At a personal and at a company level we have been interested in how to empower people through learning outside of the formal education and training system.

For years we struggled because the concept of learning in the workplace was neither recognised nor adequately supported except for certain professional, military and traditional artisan development processes.

Then we discovered the Dreyfus and Dreyfus five levels of skills acquisition in the mid 1990’s through the nascent power of the World-Wide Web. We had discovered a language which described our interest in learning outside the education and training system.

In the early 200’s we discovered the Seven Principles of Learning:

  1. Learning is fundamentally social. While learning is about the process of acquiring knowledge, it actually encompasses a lot more. Successful learning is often socially constructed and can require slight changes in one’s identity, which make the process both challenging and powerful.
  2. Knowledge is integrated in the life of communities. When we develop and share values, perspectives, and ways of doing things, we create a community of practice.
  3. 3.Learning is an act of participation. The motivation to learn is the desire to participate in a community of practice, to become and remain a member. This is a key dynamic that helps explain the power of apprenticeship and the attendant tools of mentoring and peer coaching.
  4. Knowing depends on engagement in practice. We often glean knowledge from observation of, and participation in, many different situations and activities. The depth of our knowing depends, in turn, on the depth of our engagement.
  5. Engagement is inseparable from empowerment. We perceive our identities in terms of our ability to contribute and to affect the life of communities in which we are or want to be a part.
  6. Failure to learn is often the result of exclusion from participation. Learning requires access and the opportunity to contribute.
  7. We are all natural lifelong learners. All of us, no exceptions. Learning is a natural part of being human. We all learn what enables us to participate in the communities of practice of which we wish to be a part.

HENSCHEL, P. 1999 The Manager’s Core Work in the New Economy. Retrieved on 2002-07-02 from http://www.newmango.com/01iftf/henschel.html

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_for_Research_on_Learning

When Etienne Wenger visited us (SAQA Colloquium) in 2007 I asked him about these seven rules and how valid they still were. They were still valid but he would add one more relating to the formation of identity. So from his writings I’ve added number eight.

8. We forge our identities and connections around our work, our knowledge and our contributions to the communities we choose to practice in.

These were the key references which helped us understand in what we were witnessing and learning in our work with a variety of communities of practice we worked with.