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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The second issue in a way means that, while eagerly awaiting comments from our readers, we have managed to establish ourselves. There is such a good flow of incoming articles that we can select from the papers (as far as they are reviewed and prepared in time) for loosely themed issues. In this issue we have papers concerning the intangible learning of specialists in the skilled professions and management. We also already have a good base for selecting four papers for a future e-learning special issue. The downside of this steady but increasing flow of papers is that some quite good papers will be rejected. There are altogether just 32 slots for scientific papers in JWL each year (with one full issue reserved for the guest-edited best papers of the RWL conference in South Africa in December 2007,) so in practice even less. However this will assist us in maintaining the journal’s high quality as we fill these slots with the best articles. We will also from time to time run some interesting papers under the heading “Professional practice” as has been the habit during the Editorship of Darryl Dymock. Furthermore, we would welcome scientific debate in forms of book reviews and comments or critique on articles that we publish; for such contributions, however, we reserve the right to decide how many pages can be given to these authors to express themselves. Nevertheless, we hold discussion and accumulating knowledge to be the cornerstones of innovation and development.
This issue is opened by a paper of Eva Ellström, Bodil Ekholm and Per-Erik Ellström, well-known names in the field of work-based learning. We have in our editorial statement welcomed studies of the specific conditions of learning; articles in this issue answer some of them, but all of these articles also recognize the complex nature of intangible expertise and the situational features that may affect expert learning. Ellström, Ekholm and Ellström state in their article that the concept “learning environment” does not necessarily conform to the borders of an organisational unit. Indeed, the article explores how aspects of a learning environment may differ quite widely between and within units in the same organization, and how to understand and explain such differences. Their main idea is that some environmental features enable learning, some constrain it, and understanding this is the key to enhance learning. The setting for this article is the field of health and social care.
Another way for professionals to learn is by cross-fertilizing of thinking. Another Swedish group of researchers, Jan Karlsson, Elsie Anderberg, Shirley Booth, Per Odenrick and Marita Christmansson, have studied knowledge development in multi-disciplinary teams. They have analysed the learning that takes place in the interaction between academics from different disciplines and perspectives in collaboration with practitioners. This type of team is the basis of, for, e.g. EU-funded research, and, indeed, increasingly also of corporate R&D. We feel that the insights of this article, combined with those of the previous one, should motivate researchers to further studies but also help managers to develop learning-enabling
The third article in this issue, by Joyce McHenry and Fred Strønen, also states that expert learning is contextual and cannot be easily managed through universal, predefined competence frameworks, as may be the case in learning more manual and especially repetitive, industrial tasks. The article studies the experiences in using an IT tool among IT experts and consultants. The authors find that even if a tool has indeed been designed in-house to reflect the situational features of learning, mixing an individual-contextual development approach and an organisational-universal approach to competence management in one tool can be confusing. We cannot but agree; workplace learning is complicated; there’s still much room for further research.
The last of the refereed papers in this issue is written by Katriina Maaranen, Heikki Kynäslahti and Leena Krokfors and concludes once again that without situation and a real environment learning of expertise can be quite superficial. Basing their discussion on differences in learning of students of education, they recognize that the learning of expertise is deeper if these students have a possibility to work as teachers along with their studies. While the institutional teacher education is important in building the knowledge base, a good deal of teacher learning takes place in the course of a teacher’s work as well as within the setting of a school.
Finally, we have also chosen to include an article from our publisher Emerald, written by Martin Fojt, Stephen Parkinson, John Peters (the founder of this journal) and Eric Sandelands in the “Professional Practice” section of this issue. In this article they describe the activities of Emerald to create a learning environment in the rapidly-changing field of academic publishing, simultaneously gaining individual growth and business growth, through what they call a “push-pull” model. We feel that further study in the kind of entrepreneurial-learning models for expert environments, such as the one presented here, would be interesting and hope that this article, along with the others, stimulates you, Dear Reader, to study this area.
Sara Cervai, Tauno Kekäle