Look, No Supervision!

workplaceTo have a teacher teaching you is of great advantage. We often do not realize its full merit. What if one is not available or present at the moment you are in need of learning help? Can you cope, or will you drop your learning endeavor altogether. No teach, no gain. Often we get trapped in situations in which we have to ‘learn’, acquire new knowledge while sheer ignorance is the basic line. Imagine opening your just delivered package with an all-purpose kitchen cooking blender, or a self-assembly wardrobe from a famous, brand notorious for its detailed instructions. After the first panic you start rebalancing your emotions and will conquer your feelings of despair to look for helpful scaffolds – strong clues on how ‘on earth’ to understand what to do next and grasp the meaning of things (1). It would be nice if such clues were lying around from the start of your discovery journey. It would safe time, it would avoid redoing everything after noticing you see a construction piece still in front of you, it would save a lot of sweat and tears.

A study on learning at the workplace gauged how learning may be supported in the absence of supervision and found that newly recruited workers did remarkably well without direct supervision provided enough scaffolds where existent. The learning help arounds were experienced other workers, peers, guiding instructions, organized set ups of the work environments. When engaging in such a learning design they gradually reduced their felt need of learning support.

Environments can teach, rich environments that is. No, not rich, since that could lead to a learner “buried in thought” about the many options offered, but instead what you could call a ‘powerful’ learning environment; one that provides the right kind of scaffolds without arranging your trails as a training camp. The key point here is that it is not so much about having supervision or not , or sufficient teachers around but carefully adjusting, if you will reducing, the kind of (teaching persons or environmentally designed) help so that learners can decide on and are encouraged to interact with what puzzles them. Teachers stand on others’ threshold of discovery, after that it is up to the learner.


Palesy, D. Learning in the Absence of Direct Supervision: Person-Dependent Scaffolding. In: Vocations and Learning (2017). doi:10.1007/s12186-017-9176-9



  1. http://changingminds.org/explanations/learning/ignorance_trap.htm
  2. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/5-2-what-is-a-learning-environment/


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