Professional learning in rural practice: a sociomaterial analysis

Bonnie Slade (School of Education, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Publication date: 15 February 2013



This paper aims to examine the professional learning of rural police officers.


This qualitative case study involved interviews and focus groups with 34 police officers in Northern Scotland. The interviews and focus groups were transcribed and analysed, drawing on practice‐based and sociomaterial learning theories, by members of the research team.


The two key skills for effective rural policing were mobilising available human and material resources in the moment, and learning how to police and live in a rural community. The professional learning of rural police is spatial, emergent, embodied and deeply enmeshed in specificities, and is developed through interactions between human and non‐human actors.

Practical implications

This paper argues that, in order to understand professional learning, it is imperative to examine how work practices are fully entangled in social and material relations.


Applying sociomaterial approaches to issues of professional learning can illuminate previously obscured actors and gives a fuller picture of how professional practice is developed, sustained and modified. Learning is conceived as attuning to available knowledge resources and drawing on the knowledge strategies that are the most productive in the moment. The issues raised in this paper pertain to other professionals working in rural areas, and more generally to the theoretical framing of professional practice.



Slade, B. (2013), "Professional learning in rural practice: a sociomaterial analysis", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 114-124.

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