This week, we’re talking about fun in the workplace and connecting with others. The questions we’ll be asking and answering this week are:
- Do fun activities promote informal learning?
- How can technology boost informal learning?
- Do fun experiences with technology boost learning performance?
Editor's Note: Happy 50th issue of LSW! 🥳 This is a momentous occasion for us, and the team is celebrating in style. It's also a noteworthy issue because it's our first opportunity to introduce Katie, our new Research Analyst! (Look for her intro below.) She dove right in and is kicking things off with a super fun issue. Enjoy! -- Julia
Fun in the Workplace & Informal Learning
Fair warning, while reading this article all I could think of was the PPC or The Dundies in The Office .
To assess the relationship between fun and informal learning, a study authored by Tews, Michel, and Noe in the Journal of Vocational Behavior surveyed 206 managers in a nationwide casual dining organization. The specific organization studied includes “fun at work” as one of their core values, which makes this study even more applicable. They asked the managers about the frequency of fun activities, which included social events, team building exercises, competitions, public celebrations of work achievements, etc. The survey also took into account whether the managers support fun, i.e., if the boss makes jokes and/or encourages employees to engage in fun activities. In order to look at informal learning, the researchers specifically looked at learning from oneself (reflecting), learning from others (peer learning), and learning from non-interpersonal sources (reading materials).
So, do fun activities actually promote informal learning? According to this study, indeed. Fun activities were related to overall informal learning, learning from others, and learning from non-interpersonal sources. They also found that manager support for fun was significantly related to learning from oneself, suggesting that manager support for fun leads to reflection.
You might be thinking, “does this mean that I should just throw a rad party in the office every so often?” Not so fast, PPC! While fun does lead to increased informal learning, not all fun is created equal. Managers should assess which aspects of informal learning best serve their organization. For instance, if the goal is to increase learning from oneself, then manager support for fun will be most important. However, if the goal is to promote learning from others or non-interpersonal sources, then fun activities are best (cue the streamers).
Key Takeaway: Activities that employees perceive as “fun” can lead to higher overall informal learning, as well as promote learning from others and from non-interpersonal sources; manager support for fun can lead to reflection and higher rates of learning from oneself.
Read More ($): Tews, M. J., Michel, J. W., & Noe, R. A. (2017). Does fun promote learning? The relationship between fun in the workplace and informal learning. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 98, 46-55.
Technology & Informal Learning
Our second focus this week is on how an informal learning tool can assist organizations. A recent article in Computers in Human Behavior sought to evaluate informal learning through technology software within the context of healthcare SME networks. The researchers (Treasure-Jones, Sarigianni, Maier, Santos, & Dewey), along with professionals in the field, designed a tool consisting of 2 applications aimed at supporting learning and knowledge construction. The opening screen of the tool is below.
As seen in the opening screen, the tool provided a shared project space that scaffolded the problem-solving process. The scaffolding steps were as follows:
- Describe the problem in context
- Create ideas and group them into issues
- Create options or solutions for issues
Since previous research shows that social software positively impacts work performance, socialization was a focus of the program (van Puijenbroek, Poell, Kroon, & Timmerman, 2014). Within the tool, all collaborations were shared in real-time, allowing for discussion around the project. In addition to the program above, Confer, the team also used Living Documents. This would be similar to using a Google Doc to write, edit, and comment in real-time. Within the scaffolding structure of Confer, groups would follow the prompts to address a concern. After completing all steps, the program would automatically create a draft report from the steps. The draft could then be edited through the Living Documents tool.
After the trial with the informal learning tool, employees found that the technology made a positive impact on learning. Groups found that the technology scaffolding allowed groups to make a more formalized process for decision-making, increased brainstorming, and to expand ideas further through socialization on the platform.
It is important to note that this was a specific tool designed for a specific setting (healthcare SMEs in the UK). Thus, more studies should be done to assess how generalizable the findings are in different settings. However, the study does provide great insight in that scaffolding and social components of integrated technology platforms are beneficial to employee learning.
Key Takeaway: Technology, especially social software, is an effective tool to increase socialization, brainstorming, and structure - thus, increasing informal learning.
Read More ($): Treasure-Jones, T., Sarigianni, C., Maier, R., Santos, P., & Dewey, R. (2019). Scaffolded contributions, active meetings and scaled engagement: How technology shapes informal learning practices in healthcare SME networks. Computers in Human Behavior, 95, 1-13.
Perceived Fun & Learning Performance
Our last article for this week directly measures perceived fun with technology. Researchers at Hong Kong University looked at collaboration, fun, and learning performance when using personal response systems (PRSs). Personal response systems are any platform that allows individuals to respond to questions and receive feedback; they are often used in higher education. PRSs have great implications for training in organizations, especially in virtual instructor led training environments. An example of a PRS in use would be something like this:
At the end of a training session, the instructor provides a multiple-choice situational question about the topic covered. Employees are able to use their device to answer by selecting A, B, C, or D. Upon receipt of all answers, the instructor is able to show the percentage of answers correct, providing the students with a response.
The use of PRSs encourages students to engage in active participation and reflection, leading to improved learning.The study presented reiterated that using PRSs promoted collaborative learning and improved learning performance. However, Chan, Wan, and Ko (2019) were interested in whether perceived amount of fun affected learning performance. They found that higher levels of fun experienced when using PRSs did enhance student learning performance.
Key Takeaway: As before, technology can be a great tool for learning - but don’t underestimate the variable of fun! If we can get people excited about interacting with technology and others, we could see improvement in learning performance.
Read More ($): Chan, S. C., Wan, C. J., & Ko, J. (2019). Interactivity, active collaborative learning, and learning performance: The moderating role of perceived fun by using personal response systems. The International Journal of Management Education, 17, 94-102.
We're super excited to welcome Dr. Kaitlyn Erhardt (aka Katie) to Team Intellum and to the LSW Crew. She'll be focusing on selecting meaningful articles, writing the summaries and key takeaways, and keeping you up-to-date on all of the research related to the science of learning.
A little about her: Katie enjoys hiking, reading, playing ukelele, and spending quality time with her wife and four furbabies (two dog and two cats). She just graduated last year with a PhD in Psychology! She's looking forward to colder winters when she relocates to Atlanta in the future. Invisibility is her superpower of choice so that she could sneak onto planes to travel. It would be flight, but she's not entirely sure about safely navigating the airspace between the continents.
Welcome to the team, Katie!
Pets of Learning Science Weekly
This week we're featuring a photo of Phoebe, kitty companion of reader Jill V. Thanks for sharing, Jill!
Send me (hi, I'm Julia) your pet pics at email@example.com.
Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!
The LSW Crew
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