Informal learning in postgraduate medical education: from cognitivism to ‘culturism’
Article first published online: 7 JUL 2005
Volume 39, Issue 8, pages 859–865, August 2005
How to Cite
Swanwick, T. (2005), Informal learning in postgraduate medical education: from cognitivism to ‘culturism’. Medical Education, 39: 859–865. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2005.02224.x
- Issue published online: 25 JUL 2005
- Article first published online: 7 JUL 2005
- Received 28 May 2004; editorial comments to author 10 August 2004; accepted for publication 19 August 2004
- learning/ methods
Background Work-based learning occupies a central role in the training and ongoing development of the medical workforce. With this arises the need to understand the processes involved, particularly those relating to informal learning. Approaches to informal learning in postgraduate medical education have tended to consider the mind as an independent processor of information.
Method In this paper, such cognitive approaches are critiqued and an alternative socio-cultural view on informal learning described. Recent and imminent changes in postgraduate medical education are identified, namely the reduction in patient experience, the fragmentation of teaching, and the development of competency frameworks and structured curricula. It is argued that although the latter may be useful in the construction of formal learning programmes, they will do little to enhance the progression of the individual from newcomer to old-timer or the cultural assimilation of the learner into a profession.
Discussion Strategies for enhancing informal learning in the workplace are recommended in which increased attention is paid to the development of the medical apprentice within a community of social practice. These include the establishment of strong goals, the use of improvised learning practices, attention to levels of individual engagement and workplace affordances, immersion in professional discourse and behaviours, support in relation to the development of a professional identity and the provision of opportunities to transform social practice.