Mimetic Learning at Work: Learning Through and Across Professional Working Lives

  • Stephen BillettEmail author
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


This chapter offers an explanatory account of how much, if not most, of professionals’ learning across their working lives proceeds: through processes of mimesis. Or, through mimetic learning at work as it is referred to here. To be precise, this learning arises through processes of observation, imitation and practice that comprise everyday work activities. In this way, an account of professionals’ mimetic learning through their work is important as likely the majority of the learning required to sustain and develop further their occupational capacities occurs through these means. That is, predominately, it is generated outside of circumstances of direct guidance of other and more experienced peers (e.g. being taught or guided), with others (e.g. teachers or experienced co-workers etc.) and in circumstances where others’ intentions for that what is to be learnt are enacted (i.e. through education programs). So, beyond the many accounts and explanations focusing on direct interpersonal interactions with others, there is a need to understand this more personally-mediated process of professionals’ learning and development. Hence, rather than professionals’ learning through work being largely explained by the actions of others, here, and emphasising direct engagement with others (e.g. inter-psychologically), it is timely to consider further how professionals’ learning in the circumstances of work is also mediated by personal epistemologies yet also accounted for intra-psychologically (i.e. within the person). Consequently, to augment these existing accounts, it is necessary to offer one that emphasises this more personally-mediated process by drawing upon recent considerations of individuals’ dispositions, epistemological beliefs and epistemologies, and developments within anthropology, developmental and some fresh bases arising from cognitive science are utilised to offer an account of mimetic learning and to appraise its potential contributions more comprehensively. It follows, therefore, this chapter elaborates how professionals’ worklife-long learning comprises an active and personally-directed mimetic process that is central to their learning through, not in everyday work situations, but also those in other circumstances as well. More generally, mimetic learning at work offers an account of how learning and development arises across professionals’ lives. In concluding it is proposed by setting out some premises that might comprise the foundations for an account of adults’ learning through mimetic stud in the circumstances of work.


Learning across lives Professional learning Mimesis Mimetic learning and development 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education and Professional Studies, Adult and Vocational EducationGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

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