Constructive and negative aspects of social capital in work-related learning networks

Nita Muir, Jenny Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to discuss empirical findings from a study that investigated the work practices within an education network, with the aim of understanding the processes of knowledge development and learning process. Design/methodology/approach: The research is interpretatively positioned through a qualitative case study methodology. This enabled a holistic portrait of the network activity using three different methods of data collection. These were a preliminary focus group, followed by documentary analysis of a significant number of artefacts/documents produced by the network which were triangulated with data from interviews using a cross-case analytical framework. Findings: Empirical insights are provided into the practice of the network through a lens of social capital. It suggests that having a strong bonding social capital is an informal learning factor which develops the individual participants “skills and knowledge” within the framework of Boyers scholarly practice. The findings also indicate a “dark side” to this informal learning factor which impeded collective learning through exclusivity and a maintenance of the status quo within the network. Research limitations/implications: Because of the chosen research approach, the research results may lack generalisability. Therefore, researchers are encouraged to test the proposed propositions further. Practical implications: The paper considers social capital within a network and the implication that this has on learning and development. Originality/value: This paper provides insight into informal learning factors employed within work-related learning and the duality of social capital. It also offers a novel approach in understanding how nurse academics frame work-related learning through scholarly practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • social capital
  • Work-related Learning
  • qualitative case study methodology
  • Networking
  • Qualitative case study
  • Learning factor
  • Network
  • Work-related learning
  • Social capital


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