Stan Lester Developments






Dr Stan Lester




Professional competence

Work-based learning





Informal Learning in the Professions – Gear, McIntosh & Squires


“Whereas the main emphasis for organisations and professional bodies is typically on overt, formal and public means with any informal learning in the background, for the individual it is the informal that looms largest and the formal inputs which play a supporting role”   (p71)


This study, carried out at the University of Hull’s Department of Adult Education and funded by the former Higher Education Funding Council for England, is now 30 years old but it still makes a significant contribution to the understanding of continuing professional learning.  Based on interviews with 150 practitioners across 7 professions it focuses on learning that has longer-term developmental value rather than responding to day-to-day issues.  The study helped inform some of Michael Eraut’s work on professional learning (e.g. Eraut 2004) and was also influential in some of my work with professional bodies on CPD schemes (e.g. Lester 1999).   

Some of the arguments in the report have largely been won and concepts have become more familiar, but its message is still as relevant to organisations, professional bodies and universities as it was 30 years ago.  In particular we need to move beyond the idea of some activities being seen as ‘formal’ because they are planned by an educational institution or sanctioned by a professional body, while others, that may result in far more significant learning and development, are regarded as ‘informal’ because they are planned and pursued independently by practitioners.


The report was published in paper-only format and has been out of print for many years.  A scanned pdf version (18Mb) is linked below.  (Note pages 48, 80 and 92 are blank and have not been reproduced).


   Gear, J., McIntosh, A. and Squires, G. (1994) Informal Learning in the Professions.  University of Hull Department of Adult Education.



© Stan Lester 2023