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Context dependent learning: its value and impact for workplace education

Richard Lynch (Faculty of Development and Society, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
Soon Leo (SLA (UK) Ltd, Exeter, UK)
Kevin Downing (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 1 January 2006




The purpose of this paper is to describe how a management development programme based on situated learning theory resulted in change for individuals, organisational culture and performance. The case study illustrates how new understandings about learning in the workplace and in higher education points towards the need to take account of the context in which learners utilise their knowledge and skills.


Quantitative and qualitative strategies were used to provide an evaluation of the impact of a management development programme in a group of companies. A questionnaire, focus groups and semi‐structured interviews were used to collect data on three cohorts of supervisors and middle managers at different stages of the programme. A triangulated approach was adopted towards data analysis that illuminated a broad and deep change process.


Positive cultural change was a significant benefit to the host organisation from the training programme. It was apparent that training can move beyond individual development to bring about organisational gains.

Research limitations/implications

Future research might adopt a longitudinal design and facilitate a co‐researcher approach using students' learning logs of workplace experiences.

Practical implications

Situated approaches to learning in higher education and the workplace need to be developed further to enhance workplace performance. A proposal is made for “learning consultants” to move between the two environments and facilitate knowledge exchange and improve understanding of the variety of learning contexts in business and educational settings.


A data driven case study on the relationship between training, culture and organisational performance suggests that new approaches to learning require partnerships between the worlds of work and university that traverses theory, practice and personnel.



Lynch, R., Leo, S. and Downing, K. (2006), "Context dependent learning: its value and impact for workplace education", Education + Training, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 15-24.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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