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Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management, Second Edition by MARJORIE A. LYLES, MARK EASTERBY-SMITH

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Social Learning Theory in Organizational Learning Literature

The appearance of social learning theory in organizational learning literature falls in time together with a social constructivist turn in social science and educational studies (Berger and Luckmann, 1966 [1991]; Bredo, 1997; Larochelle, Bednarz, and Garrison, 1998). The individual mind as the locus of learning is, in other words, questioned within many fields of research. The main criticisms are that if learning begins with change in cognitive structures, how is it possible to learn from practice and practicing, i.e. from body, emotions, and from the taken for granted and unspoken history and culture (Cook and Yanow, 1993)? Further, if it is possible to coin the individual and the enterprise as separate entities, how is it possible to understand knowledge as situated, i.e. that an individual can be knowledgeable in one organizational context, and not in another comparable one (Lave, 1988)?

The argument from social learning theory is that a situation posits certain possibilities for some actions and knowledge being legitimate and other knowledge and actions not. Access to participation and power are, thus, important issues to take into account in organizational learning. Further, individuals both ‘produce’ and are ‘products’ of situations mirroring access and power. This ‘situated’ view of learning moves it away from individual mind to the social sphere of interaction, activity, and practice; and this has paved the road ...

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