Informal Field-Based Learning and Work Design

Mikhail A. Wolfson, John E. Mathieu, Scott I. Tannenbaum, M. Travis Maynard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


U.S. organizations continue to invest most of their learning budgets in formal training and development programs despite estimates that the majority of learning in the workplace happens informally. In this study we focus on informal field-based learning (IFBL), which represents individuals engaging in self-directed, intentional, and field-based development of their knowledge and skills. We build on the informal learning literature to advance a cross-level model of individual and job-level characteristics as influences on IFBL and subsequent changes in job performance. We tested our model using a sample of 378 health care employees who occupied 47 different jobs. The results showed promotion-focused individuals more readily engaged in IFBL, as moderated by job time pressures. Moreover, engaging in IFBL behaviors positively related to performance improvements in jobs that require greater updating and use of relevant information, as well as in jobs with relatively low decision making and problem-solving requirements. Exploratory subdimensional analyses revealed some interesting countervailing relationships between the feedback-seeking and vicariouslearning elements of IFBL. Results are discussed in terms of contingency relationships associated with IFBL behaviors and different job types, as well as theoretical and practical implications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Informal learning
  • Job performance
  • Work design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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