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A conceptual framework for work-applied learning for developing managers as practitioner researchers

Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt (Griffith Institute for Educational Research, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia) (Faculty of Education Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa)
Selva Abraham (Global Centre for Work-Applied Learning, Adelaide, Australia)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 13 February 2017




The purpose of this paper is to introduce a conceptual framework for work-applied learning (WAL) that fosters the development of managers and other professionals as lifelong learners and practitioner researchers – through reflective practice, action research, action learning and action leadership, for positive organisational change.


The theoretical framework is designed from a holistic, affective-socio-cognitive approach to learning, teaching, research and development. It is based on a phenomenological research paradigm and informed by aspects of various theories, including experiential learning theory, strengths-based theory, grounded theory and critical theory/realism.


Based on classical and recent literature and the authors’ extensive experience, the WAL model presented here is an effective and practical approach to management education, research and development. It is useful for present and future requirements of business, industry, government and society at large in this twenty-first century, and in pursuit of a world of equality, social justice, sustainable development and quality of life for all. This is because of the nature of the research paradigm, particularly its collaborative and emancipatory processes.


This paper provides a theoretical, pedagogical and methodological rationalisation for WAL. This model is particularly useful for developing individual, team and organisational learning and for cultivating managers – or professional learners generally – as practitioner researchers. These researchers may act as role models of collaborative action leadership in their organisations with a cascading effect. This paper therefore advances an incipient literature on practitioner researchers as action leaders.



Zuber-Skerritt, O. and Abraham, S. (2017), "A conceptual framework for work-applied learning for developing managers as practitioner researchers", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 35-50.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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