Implicit and informal professional development: what it ‘looks like’, how it occurs, and why we need to research it

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The landscape of professional learning and development knowledge has expanded steadily in recent decades. Accompanying this expansion, the field’s lexicon has widened, to include terms such as ‘situated’ learning and learning ‘in situ’, which incorporate recognition that professional learning and development occur as part-and-parcel of everyday working life. Most often categorised as ‘informal’ or ‘implicit’, such professional learning and development is under-researched; resonant of an iceberg whose biggest proportion lies submerged and unseen, with only its tip exposed, the bulk of professional learning and development activity remains unexamined by researchers, who tend predominantly to focus on ‘explicit’ professional development. Addressing issues that arise out of this lacuna of neglect, through short vignettes drawn from research interviews with education professionals, the author highlights recognition of something as ‘a better way’ as essential to the micro-level professional learning and development process. Yet she also considers whether an actor’s recollection of a professional learning or development incident or ‘episode’ precludes its being categorised as ‘implicit’. She argues that, despite the methodological challenges involved in researching it, understanding how ‘implicit’ professional development occurs should be afforded a prominent place on its research agenda if the field is to advance and retain intellectual credibility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalProfessional Development in Education
Issue number1
Early online date5 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Situated workplace learning
  • dimensions of professional development
  • micro-level professional development
  • unconscious learning
  • definition of professional development


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