Transfer of attained learning in Communities of Practice of Public Administration

Imagotipo CRIEDO
Any: 2016

Public administrations need to guarantee maximum efficiency of the resources that society places at their disposal while, at the same time, guaranteeing sufficient personal and professional development for their employees. The Lisbon Strategy, devised by the European Commission in 2000, encouraged all member states to begin actions to increase the levels of quality and efficiency in the system.

In 2005, the Centre for Legal Studies and Specialised Training (CEJFE) of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan government) began the Compartim programme with the aim of organising and structuring the different Communities of Practice (CoP) which already existed informally within the Department of Justice. During its nine years of activity, the Compartim programme has involved more than 1,500 professionals, it has helped 145 knowledge products come to light, and it has contributed to generating seven publications that compile the experiences and present them so that other institutions can learn from the programme and implement similar strategies.

In parallel to the development of these CoP, understood as spaces where professionals can share their interests and knowledge with an eye to achieving a common goal with the potential to improve the organisation, study results have been published which have shown that participants learn new knowledge, skills and working methods informally. However, there are very few studies that have focused on analysing which variables influence the integration of new learning into daily working activities.

The goal of this study is to assess the variables that have an influence on the process of integrating the learning acquired through professional Communities of Practice (CoPs) in the public administration. Specifically, it focuses on: (1) outlining which characteristics of CoPs promote learning among their participants; (2) analysing aspects of the organisational context, the participants, and the design and development of activities which can influence the integration into the workplace of the learning that is generated in the CoPs; and (3) comparatively analysing the relationships between the variables that have an impact on the integration of continuing professional development, and the variables that affect the integration of learning acquired in CoPs.

In order to achieve these objectives, a study was designed which, under the interpretative paradigm, uses both quantitative tools (questionnaires) and qualitative techniques (document analysis, semi-structured interviews, and field notes) to obtain data that helps toward understanding professionals’ perceptions of the integration of learning. The triangulation and verification of the data has allowed for analysing the differences between the perceptions of those who have participated in CoPs and those who have participated in training activities.

The results obtained, although they cannot be generalisable, help us to understand how organisational variables, variables in the design of training activities, and variable concerning the participants themselves affect the integration of learning that occurs informally in the heart of the CoPs. Likewise, the results obtained have also allowed us to present guidelines which can be followed by CoP managers to improve their CoPs’ adaptation to the working context in order to promote the integration of learning and, as such, to help increase the impact of the CoPs on each participant’s job post.

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