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Can a professional learning community deliver career development learning?

Michelle Gander (School of Business, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Australia)
Margot McInnes (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 18 May 2021

Issue publication date: 28 July 2021




The professional development needs of university professional staff are an under-researched area. More data were needed to understand their needs to ensure that employers invest their resources appropriately. A conceptual framework is developed for the workplace learning of career development activities using concepts of professional learning communities, adult learning and non-formal learning. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the success of a professional development network in meeting the needs of university professional staff after a re-structure.


A case study of the development of a staff career network at an Australian university after a restructure is presented. An online survey was sent to 75 staff who had attended at least one professional development event. Quantitative and qualitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis.


This study has shown that a university professional staff career network has been a positive influence for its participants after an organisational restructure. The value of this network was to increase confidence and provide opportunities for self-improvement, career planning and networking.


A conceptual model integrating the concepts of professional learning communities, adult learning and non-formal learning has resulted in a model of social non-formalised workplace learning that may be of use in other contexts to improve staff motivation, outside of more formal learning opportunities.



A special mention must go to Dr Joanna Brooks who was integral in setting APEX up in 2018. There are many other staff who make running this network possible, so thank you for your time and enthusiasm.


Gander, M. and McInnes, M. (2021), "Can a professional learning community deliver career development learning?", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 33 No. 7, pp. 523-533.



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