Learning occupations through practice: Constituting a curriculum, pedagogy and epistemology of practice


17 October 2014 (Friday)

12:30 – 14:00

Room 202, Runme Shaw Building, HKU

Professor Stephen Billett, the School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Australia

(Chair: Professor Carol K.K. Chan)



This presentation advances an account of how learning for and through occupational practice progresses and might be enhanced. It does so by drawing on historical, anthropological, the author’s empirical workplace based inquiries and recent advances with within cognitive science. It outlines premises for learning occupational practices, and proposes a curriculum, pedagogic and epistemology of practice as bases for promoting that learning. In all, it holds there is a need for a science of learning through the circumstances of practice that can assist effective occupational preparation, on-going development across working lives and also transformation of work and occupational practice. Current conceptions, norms and practices of learning are overly premised on and shaped by practices and precepts of educational institutes and their provisions (i.e. schooled societies). However, learning co-occurs with practice in all settings, not just these institutions, and has done so across human history, largely outside of those institutions. Therefore, to elaborate what constitutes the processes and outcomes of learning in the circumstances of work, how it might be improved and to overcome the societal privileging of education institutions and practices in any ‘era of schooling’, there is a need for an informed and comprehensive account of learning in the circumstances of practice. Such a theory will likely have dimensions of purposes, practice based curriculum and pedagogy and epistemological actions of learners. This presentation outlines some conceptions of learning through practice and begins to propose some curriculum, pedagogic and epistemological practices that are suited to enhancing learning through and for occupational practice. In particular it notes the centrality of mimetic learning in these processes.


About the speaker


Stephen Billett is Professor of Adult and Vocational Education in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. He has worked as a vocational educator, educational administrator, teacher educator, professional development practitioner and policy developer in the Australian vocational education system and as a teacher and researcher at Griffith University. Since 1992, he has researched learning through and for work and has published widely in fields of learning of occupations, workplace learning, work and conceptual accounts of learning for vocational purposes. His sole authored books include Learning through work: Strategies for effective practice (Allen and Unwin 2001); Work, change and workers (Springer 2006) Vocational Education (Springer 2011) and Mimetic learning at Work (2014). His edited book includes Work, Subjectivity and Learning (Springer, 2006) Emerging Perspectives of Work and Learning (Sense 2008), Learning through practice (Springer 2010), Promoting professional learning (Springer 2011), Experiences of school transitions (Springer 2012), Promoting, assessing, recognizing and certifying Lifelong Learning (Springer 2014). He is currently preparing manuscript entitled the Integration of Practice-based Learning in Higher Education Programs. He is the founding and Editor in Chief of Vocations and learning: Studies in vocational and professional education (Springer) and lead editor of the book series Professional and practice-based learning (Springer) and lead editor for the forthcoming International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning (due out in 2014) with colleagues from Germany. He was a Fulbright Professional Scholar in 1999, awarded a 2009-2010 Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) National Teaching Fellowship that identified principles and practices to effectively integrate learning experiences in practice and academic settings. In June 2011, he commenced a four-year Australian Research Council Future Fellowship on learning through practice, which aims to develop a curriculum and pedagogy of practice. In August 2013 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Jyvasksla University (Finland) for his contributions to educational science.

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