Developing Professional Competencies through International Peer Learning Communities

Developing Professional Competencies through International Peer Learning Communities

Hanna Yakavenka (University of Greenwich, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1815-2.ch008
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This chapter utilizes a peer learning community as an example to explore whether and how information exchange, learning, and knowledge creation occur when students undertake professional internships. Observation and analysis of the learners’ views on their interaction are conducted by studying peer-generated blogs to determine if learners working in companies worldwide, but connected via an informal virtual community, can communicate effectively and produce a useful pool of information, thus creating meaningful knowledge and expertise to assist in future career development. The objective is to utilize the lessons learned to incorporate effective elements of the peer learning experience into formal programs of study and so increase the employability focus of business education.
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There is sufficient evidence to indicate that knowledge can be shared in a community of learning given that reflective communication enables the enculturation of professional activities (e.g. Steinbring, 2005). A primary focus of learning within the community is social participation i.e. an individual as an active participant in the interactions of the community and in the construction of the knowledge base through the community. Many have suggested that knowledge is socially constructed (Berger & Luckmann, 1966); often tacit (Polanyi, 1966; Hedlund, 1994); a function of the play of meanings, material, as well as mental and social (Latour, 1987); acquired through participation within communities of practice (Wenger, et al., 2002). In contrast to the objectivist epistemology view, Polanyi (1966) argued that there is an inescapable and essential personal element that is a structural component of all knowledge which he called “personal,” saying that when we know anything at all, we “dwell in” its particulars in order to understand the “comprehensive entity” which is the meaning of these particulars, which includes them as their sense. Davenport and Prusak (1998) claimed, “knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information and expert insight... it originates and is applied in the minds of knowers” (p. 5). Nonaka (in von Krogh, et al., 2000) concluded that in any way knowledge is context-specific, as it depends on a particular time and space. While the sender of the knowledge is giving it meaning in according with its home context, the receiver is decoding it in accordance with the host framework in order to apply it. Overall this chapter argues that knowledge is constructed on the bases of social circumstances, the characteristics and personal history of individual learners (Billet, 1996), the level of trust generated among the members (Bekmeier-Feuerhahn & Eichenlaub, 2010) and specific work-based settings.

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