Informal Learning in Workplaces: Understanding Learning Culture as a Challenge for Organizational and Individual Development

  • Christoph Fischer
  • Bridget N. O’Connor
Part of the Professional and Practice-based Learning book series (PPBL, volume 9)


Organizations rely on new knowledge. Carriers and creators of knowledge are the members of the organizations. These individuals have to do the actual learning and acquire new knowledge. The organization can only support the individuals in their learning processes. One way to do this is to create an organizational culture that supports and values learning. It is called learning culture. Learning culture represents the organization’s view and its values concerning learning. The differences between this organizational learning culture and the individual’s views on learning are the focus of this chapter. First, we describe and define the concept of “learning culture” as an environment that encompasses what an organization can offer in the way of structured and unstructured learning affordances. Included in this section is a discussion of two instruments that have been used to measure learning culture as well as the results of studies that have relied on such measures. The second section discusses the internal foundations or the epistemic beliefs that shape the individuals’ understanding on what knowledge is and how to obtain it. In our conclusion section, we attempt to put the two sections together in a way that may help us better study and support an organization’s learning culture.


Learning Environment Organizational Culture Knowledge Creation Human Resource Development Affective Commitment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Argyris, C., & Schön, D. A. (1978). Organizational learning. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  2. Bigalk, D. (2006). Lernförderlichkeit von Arbeitsplätzen – Spiegelbild der Organisation? eine vergleichende Analyse von Unternehmen mit hoch und gering lernförderlichen Arbeitsplätzen [Learning supportiveness of workplaces – A image of an organization? A comparative analysis of organizations with high and low supportive workplaces] (Dissertation). Kassel University Press, Kassel.Google Scholar
  3. Bråten, I., Gil, L., Strømsø, H. I., & Vidal-Abarca, E. (2009). Personal epistemology across cultures: Exploring Norwegian and Spanish university students’ epistemic beliefs about climate change. Social Psychology of Education, 12(4), 529–560. doi: 10.1007/s11218-009-9097-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Butler, E. (1999). Technology equity: The politics and practices of work-related learning. In D. Boud & J. Garrick (Eds.), Understanding learning at work. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Camps, J., & Majocchi, A. (2010). Learning atmosphere and ethical behavior, does it make sense? Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 129–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Casimir, G., Lee, K., & Loon, M. (2012). Knowledge sharing: Influences of trust, commitment and cost. Journal of Knowledge Management, 16(5), 740–753. doi: 10.1108/13673271211262781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Denison, D. R. (1990). Corporate culture and organizational effectiveness. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  8. Dewitt, A. (2012). Group agency and epistemic dependency. Epistime, 9(3), 235–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Egan, T. M., Yang, B., & Bartlett, K. R. (2004). The effects of organizational learning culture and job satisfaction on motivation to transfer learning and turnover intention. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 15(3), 279–301. doi: 10.1002/hrdq.1104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elby, A., & Hammer, D. (2001). On the substance of a sophisticated epistemology. Science Education, 85(5), 554–567. doi: 10.1002/sce.1023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fenwick, T. (2001). Tides of change: New themes and questions in workplace learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 92, 3–18 (Winter).Google Scholar
  12. Feucht, F. C. (2010). Epistemic climate in elementary classrooms. In L. D. Bendixen & F. C. Feucht (Eds.), Personal epistemology in the classroom: Theory, research, and educational implications (pp. 55–93). Cambridge, UK/New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Franco, G. M., Muis, K. R., Kendeou, P., Ranellucci, J., Sampasivam, L., & Wang, X. (2012). Examining the influences of epistemic beliefs and knowledge representations on cognitive processing and conceptual change when learning physics. Learning and Instruction, 22(1), 62–77. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2011.06.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gordon, G. G., & DiTomaso, N. (1992). Predicting corporate performance from organizational culture. Journal of Management Studies, 29(6), 783–798. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.1992.tb00689.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Haerle, F. C., & Bendixen, L. D. (2008). Personal epistemology in elementary classrooms: A conceptual comparison of Germany and the United States and a guide for future cross-cultural research. In M. S. Khine (Ed.), Knowing, knowledge, and beliefs: Epistemological studies across diverse cultures (pp. 151–176). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harteis, C., Gruber, H., & Hertramph, H. (2010). How epistemic beliefs influence e-learning in daily work life. Educational Technology & Society, 13(3), 201–211.Google Scholar
  17. Hofer, B. K. (2001). Personal epistemology research: Implications for learning and teaching. Educational Psychology Review, 13(4), 353–383. doi: 10.1023/A:1011965830686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hofer, B. K. (2006). Domain specificity of personal epistemology: Resolved questions, persistent issues, new models. International Journal of Educational Research, 45(1–2), 85–95. doi: 10.1016/j.ijer.2006.08.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hofstede, G. (1989). Organising for cultural diversity. European Management Journal, 7(4), 390–397. doi: 10.1016/0263-2373(89)90075-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hofstede, G. (1998). Identifying organizational subcultures: An empirical approach. Journal of Management Studies, 35(1), 1–12. doi: 10.1111/1467-6486.00081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hofstede, G. H. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Hsu, H. Y. (2009). Organizational learning culture’s influence on job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and turnover intention among R&D professionals in Taiwan during an economic downturn (Dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.Google Scholar
  23. Jehng, J.-C. J., Johnson, S. D., & Anderson, R. C. (1993). Schooling and students′ epistemological beliefs about learning. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 18(1), 23–35. doi: 10.1006/ceps.1993.1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jo, S. J., & Joo, B.-K. (2011). Knowledge sharing: The influences of learning organization culture, organizational commitment, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 18(3), 353–364. doi: 10.1177/1548051811405208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson, C. (2011). Workplace learning: Organizations, ethics, and issues. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B. N. O’Connor (Eds.), The Sage handbook of workplace learning. London: Sage, 456–465.Google Scholar
  26. Kalyar, M. N., & Rafi, N. (2013). ‘Organizational learning culture’: An ingenious device for promoting firm’s innovativeness. The Service Industries Journal, 33(12), 1135–1147. doi: 10.1080/02642069.2012.716828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kienhues, D., Bromme, R., & Stahl, E. (2008). Changing epistemological beliefs: The unexpected impact of a short-term intervention. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(4), 545–565. doi: 10.1348/000709907X268589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lin, Y.-C., Liang, J.-C., & Tsai, C.-C. (2012). The relationships between epistemic beliefs in biology and approaches to learning biology among biology-major university students in Taiwan. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(6), 796–807. doi: 10.1007/s10956-012-9367-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Long, D. W. D., & Fahey, L. (2000). Diagnosing cultural barriers to knowledge management. The Academy of Management Executive (1993–2005), 14(4), 113–127.Google Scholar
  30. López-Nicolás, C., & Meroño-Cerdán, Á. L. (2011). Strategic knowledge management, innovation and performance. International Journal of Information Management, 31(6), 502–509. doi: 10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2011.02.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marsick, V. E., & Watkins, K. E. (2003). Demonstrating the value of an organization’s learning culture: The dimensions of the learning organization questionnaire. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 5(132), 138–151.Google Scholar
  32. Meyer, J. P., & Allen, N. J. (1991). A three-component conceptualization of organizational commitment. Human Resource Management Review, 1(1), 61–89. doi: 10.1016/1053-4822(91)90011-Z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morris, S. A., Rehbein, K. A., Hosseini, J. C., & Armacost, R. L. (1995). A test of environmental, situational, and personal influences on the ethical intentions of CEOs. Business and Society., 34(2), 119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Muis, K. R., & Duffy, M. C. (2013). Epistemic climate and epistemic change: Instruction designed to change students’ beliefs and learning strategies and improve achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(1), 213–225. doi: 10.1037/a0029690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Muis, K. R., & Sinatra, G. M. (2008). University cultures and epistemic beliefs: Examining differences between two academic environments. In M. S. Khine (Ed.), Knowing, knowledge and beliefs (pp. 137–150). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company. New York/Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Proubert, B. (1999). Gendered works and gendered work: Implications for women’s learning. In D. Boud & J. Garrick (Eds.), Understanding learning at work. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Quian, G., & Pan, J. (2002). A comparison of epistemological beliefs and learning from science text between American and Chinese high school students. In B. K. Hofer & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Personal epistemology: The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  39. Randall, D. M., Fedor, D. B., & Longenecker, C. O. (1990). The behavioral expression of organizational commitment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 36(2), 210–224. doi: 10.1016/0001-8791(90)90028-Z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sackmann, S. A. (1992). Culture and subcultures: An analysis of organizational knowledge. Administrative Science Quarterly, 37(1), 140–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 498–504. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.82.3.498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schommer, M., Crouse, A., & Rhodes, N. (1992). Epistemological beliefs and mathematical text comprehension: believing it is simple does not make it so. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(4), 435–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schommer-Aikins, M., & Easter, M. (2008). Epistemological beliefs’ contributions to study strategies of Asian Americans and European Americans. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 920–929. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.100.4.920.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Song, J. H., & Kolb, J. A. (2012). Learning organizational culture and firm performance: The mediating effects of knowledge creation in Korean firms. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 20(2), 252–264. doi: 10.1177/1548051812461146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sonntag, K. (2002). Personalentwicklung und Training [Human resource training and development]. Zeitschrift für Personalpsychologie, 1(2), 59–79. doi: 10.1026//1617-6391.1.2.59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sonntag, K., Schaper, N., & Friebe, J. (2005). Erfassung und Bewertung von Merkmalen unternehmensbezogener Lernkulturen [Ascertainment and measurement of characteristics of organizational learning cultures]. In Arbeitsgemeinschaft Betriebliche Weiterbildungsforschung e. V. (Ed.), Kompetenzmessung im Unternehmen: Lernkultur- und Kompetenzanalysen im betrieblichen Umfeld (Vol. 18, pp. 19–339). Münster/New York/München/Berlin: Waxmann.Google Scholar
  47. Sonntag, K., & Stegmaier, R. (1999). Organisationales Lernen und Wissensmanagement [Organizational learning and knowledge management]. In W. Schöni & K. Sonntag (Eds.), Personalförderung im Unternehmen: Bildung, qualifizierende Arbeit und Netzwerke für das 21. Jahrhundert (pp. 77–88). Chur, Switzerland: Ruegger.Google Scholar
  48. Sonntag, K., Stegmaier, R., Schaper, N., & Friebe, J. (2004). Dem Lernen im Unternehmen auf der Spur: Operationalisierung von Lernkultur [Learning in organizations – Operationalizing learning culture]. Unterrichtswissenschaft, 32(2), 104–127.Google Scholar
  49. van den Hooff, B., & de Ridder, J. A. (2004). Knowledge sharing in context: The influence of organizational commitment, communication climate and CMC use on knowledge sharing. Journal of Knowledge Management, 8(6), 117–130. doi: 10.1108/13673270410567675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Egmond, M. C., Kühnen, U., & Li, J. (2013). Mind and virtue: The meaning of learning, a matter of culture? Learning Culture and Social Interaction, 2(3), 208–216. doi: 10.1016/j.lcsi.2013.06.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Windschitl, M., & Andre, T. (1998). Using computer simulations to enhance conceptual change: The roles of constructivist instruction and student epistemological beliefs. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(2), 145–160. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(199802)35:2<145::AID-TEA5>3.0.CO;2-S.
  52. Yang, B. (2003). Identifying valid and reliable measures for dimensions of a learning culture. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 5(2), 152–162. doi: 10.1177/1523422303005002003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Yang, F.-Y., & Tsai, C.-C. (2008). Investigating university student preferences and beliefs about learning in the web-based context. Computers & Education, 50(4), 1284–1303. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2006.12.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zack, M. H. (1999). Developing a knowledge strategy. California Management Review, 3, 125–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Educational ScienceUniversity of PaderbornPaderbornGermany
  2. 2.School of Culture, Education and Human DevelopmentNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations