Workplaces’ affordance determines the opportunities to participate in different kinds of goal-directed activities as well as the support and guidance in coming to know about those activities. The kinds of goal-directed activities individuals engage in influence what they learn and reinforce that learning through subsequent experiences. The support and guidance afforded by the workplace influences the prospects for socially constituted knowledge being made accessible. The way workplaces afford opportunities for learning and how individuals elect to engage in activities and with the support and guidance provided by the workplace, is central to understanding workplaces as learning environments. These dual bases for participation at work – co-participation – and the relations between them, are held to be central to understanding the kinds of learning that workplaces provide. In particular, the readiness of the workplace to afford opportunities for individuals to participate in work activities and access direct and indirect support are key determinants in the quality of learning that arises from that participation. These affordances are salient to the outcomes of both structured workplace learning arrangements, such as mentoring, as well as learning derived through everyday participation at work.

Affordance of social practice – Although knowledge is socio-historically and culturally constituted, it is manifested in particular ways by situational factors with activity systems providing the situational basis for performance. These, in turn, mediate knowing (learning, problem solving and transfer). The knowledge to be constructed, the kinds of problems to be resolved and problem solutions, how that knowledge is constructed and the kinds of support and guidance available are the product of particular communities of social practice, such as workplaces. Consequently, the affordances or invitational qualities of the social practice determine individuals’ participation in work and what they learn. How these affordances are constituted is determined by workplace hierarchies, group affiliations, personal relations, workplace cliques and cultural practices, and the kinds of activities in which individuals are able to or requested to engage. Affordances such as these likely determine the quality of individuals’ participation in terms of the activities and guidance they can access, both of which have consequences for the knowledge to be constructed.