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Informal learning in formal organizations: The case of volunteer learning in the hospital

Serrano Velarde, Kathia

In: Current Sociology, 68 (2020), Nr. 4. pp. 572-591. ISSN 0011-3921 (Druck-Ausg.); 1461-7064 (Online-Ausg.)

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The sociology of education has much to gain from an organizational perspective on learning processes. This is especially true for ‘informal learning’ – that is, learning beyond traditional educational settings such as schools and universities. The present article addresses this gap by providing a theoretical and empirical account of the informality of learning situations in formal organizations. Following the insights of the ‘situated learning’ literature and interaction-based analysis, the article investigates the role and place of informal learners in formal organizations by analysing the learning experience of volunteers who have chosen to take part in the German national voluntary service. The author grasps the complexity of their learning experience over time by using a mixed methods design that combines ethnographic protocols with a series of narrative interviews with German voluntary service participants in hospitals. Since the volunteers observed in the hospital context were constrained to routine tasks that do not require medical skills, their scope of learning new things is indeed limited. Learning thus comes with the necessity of challenging the boundaries of their volunteer role, which in turn requires the cooperation of the regular staff. The article reveals the social mechanisms underlying the individual learning experience of hospital volunteers. It does so by focusing on their boundary work and by identifying the limits of their participation in the communities of practice that they are ‘trying to help’.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Current Sociology
Volume: 68
Number: 4
Publisher: Sage
Place of Publication: London
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2020 16:21
Date: 2020
ISSN: 0011-3921 (Druck-Ausg.); 1461-7064 (Online-Ausg.)
Page Range: pp. 572-591
Faculties / Institutes: The Faculty of Economics and Social Studies > Institute of Sociology
Subjects: 300 Social sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords: Boundary work, hospital, informal learning, learning in organizations, lifelong learning, rule breaking, situated learning, volunteer, helping
Additional Information: Dieser Beitrag ist aufgrund einer (DFG-geförderten) Allianz bzw. Nationallizenz frei zugänglich. This publication is freely accessible due to an Alliance licence and a national licence (funded by the DFG, German Research Foundation) respectively.
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