Work-based Learning Toolkit and Partnership Plans

Incidental Learning

Incidental learning is unplanned or unintentional learning.  Incidental learning in the workplace can happen as a result of observation, conversation with colleagues, use of work tools, and problem solving.

It may occur while carrying out an activity that is seemingly unrelated to what is learned.   Early research on this topic dealt with how people learn in their daily routines at their workplaces.  For many people, mobile devices have been integrated into their daily lives, providing many opportunities for technology-supported incidental learning.  Unlike formal education, incidental learning is not led by a teacher, nor does it follow a structured curriculum, or result in formal certification.  However, it may trigger self-reflection, and this could be used to encourage learners to reconceive what could otherwise be isolated learning fragments as part of more coherent and longer term learning journeys.

Example:  Incidental Learning for Age Friendly Economies: Incidental learning is thought to be very prevalent in business incubators where incidental learning as seen as the “karma in the walls and halls.”[1] To make this pedagogy work for them, SME owners and their employees need to create opportunities for interaction, sharing and networking with other people in their field, in similar fields, with their customers etc.


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