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Problematising practice, learning and change: practice-theory perspectives on professional learning

Ann Reich (Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Paul Hager (Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 8 September 2014




This paper aims to problematise practice and contribute to new understandings of professional and workplace learning. Practice is a concept which has been largely taken for granted and under-theorised in workplace learning and education research. Practice has usually been co-located with classifiers, such as legal practice, vocational practice, teaching practice and yoga practice, with the theoretical emphasis on the domain – legal, teaching and learning.


This is a theory-driven paper which posits a framework of six prominent threads for theorizing practice. It uses examples of empirical research to illustrate each thread.


A framework of six prominent threads for theorising practice in professional learning is suggested. It understands practices as patterned, embodied, networked and emergent and learning entwined with working, knowing, organizing and innovating. By conceptualising learning as occurring via and in practices, prominent understanding of learning are challenged. The paper discusses each thread with reference to empirical research that illuminates it and indicates the contributions of practice theory perspectives in richer understandings of professional learning and change.


This paper engages with the practice turn in social sciences to reconceptualise professional and workplace learning. It contributes to research on learning at work by supplementing current thinking about learning, particularly the socio-cultural conceptions of learning, with the resources of practice theories that attend to the regularities of practice.



This article is based on a conference presentation to the paper presented at the 8th International Researching Work and Learning (RWL) Conference.

The visible and invisible in work and learning, 19-21 June, Stirling University, Scotland, and the work in Practice, Learning and change: Practice-theory perspectives on professional learning. The authors acknowledge the contribution of our colleague Alison Lee who sadly passed away last year.


Reich, A. and Hager, P. (2014), "Problematising practice, learning and change: practice-theory perspectives on professional learning", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 26 No. 6/7, pp. 418-431.



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