Materials for Teaching, Research and Policy Making



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Chapter 4. Work and Learning


Section 4.1 General Perspectives on

Learning-Work Relationships



Aarkrog, V. (2005). Learning in the workplace and the significance of school-based education: A study of learning in a Danish vocational education and training programme. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 24(2), 137-147.


Over the last decades educational researchers and politicians have shown a growing interest in the concept of learning in practice, i.e. learning in the workplace. Learning in practice plays an important role in connection with lifelong learning, as the workplace is an obvious setting for realizing this aim. Theories about learning in practice often include a critique of school-based learning by seriously questioning the idea that learning in school can be transferred to action and by emphasizing the context dependence of learning and acting. This article contributes to the debate by pointing out some advantages of combining school-based and workplace-based learning. The results of a study of learning in a vocational education and training (VET) programme for sales assistants show that both the theoretical training in the VET school and the practical training in the workplace are necessary to develop competency. Furthermore, the results indicate that a careful matching of specific parts of the curriculum with the learning setting (the workplace or the school) may improve the trainees' achievements. The matching is not only useful in improving VET programmes but is also generally useful in planning lifelong learning as work-related education.
KEY WORDS: Lifelong Learning; Vocational Education; Inplant Programs; Education Work Relationship; Foreign Countries; Sales Occupations.

Adler, P. S. (2004). From labour process to activity theory. In P. Sawchuk, N. Duarte & M. Elhammoumi (Eds.), Critical perspectives on activity: explorations across education, work and everyday life (pp. 160-192). New York: Cambridge University Press.


Labor process theory is an influential school of thought in the analysis of work. Starting with Braverman (1976), labor process theory traditionally has ignored the fundamental contradiction Marx saw between the progressive socialization of the labor process and the persistence of capitalist profitability constraints. Implicit in Marx's terms, socialization is the development away from local isolation towards "universal interdependence," and it is a key trend both in the objective structure of industry and in subjective self-construals. Activity theory offers a framework in which we can conceptualize the various loci of the contradiction between socialization and profitability. I employ this framework to analyze three cases of work reorganization -- Taylorism, lean production, and the rationalization of software development. In all cases, the socialization of the labor process has been simultaneously stimulated, retarded, and distorted by profitability pressures.
KEY WORDS: Labour Process; Activity Theory.

Allman, P. (2001). Critical education against global capitalism: Karl Marx and revolutionary critical education. Westport: Bergin & Garvey.


The author uses Marx and his primary texts as the key to understanding contemporary capitalism. Although the focus is on Marx's theoretical explanation of capitalism, material is informed by Marx's revolutionary theory of consciousness. She begins with a brief overview of the drawbacks of globalization, then presents Marx's dialectical explanation of capitalism, and examines the weaknesses of contemporary challenges to capitalism. She contends that critical education is necessary for revolutionary social transformation and suggests strategies for implementing critical education toward the goal of the abolition of capitalism.
KEY WORDS: Globalization; Marxism; Work and Learning.

Avis, J. (2004). Work-based learning and social justice: 'Learning to labour' and the new vocationalism in England. Journal of Education and Work, 17(2), 197-217.


The article explores work-based learning in the context of current changes taking place in vocational education and training in England. It seeks to locate these within an understanding of the economy and the way in which work-based knowledge is construed. The article analyses these issues, drawing upon a literature that examines the work-based experiences of young people. This allows an engagement with notions of social justice, providing an opportunity to address the rhetorical question, 'learning to labour', posed in the title. It concludes by suggesting that if work-based learning is to move beyond forms of occupational socialisation there is a need to critique its underlying assumptions and seek out spaces for a progressive practice underpinned by a commitment to social justice.
KEY WORDS: Vocational Education; England; Work Based Learning; Vocational Training; Work and Learning.

Avis, J. (2007). Engeström's version of activity theory: A conservative praxis? Journal of Education and Work, 20(3), 161-177.


This article argues that Engestrom's version of activity theory, while holding progressive possibilities, is undermined by a restricted conceptualisation of transformation and the marginalisation of a politicised notion of social antagonism. As a consequence, argues Avis, this approach to activity theory can easily fold over into a conservative praxis that undermines its potential radicalism, becoming instead "technicised" and a form of transformism.
KEY WORDS: Activity Theory; CHAT; Praxis; Social Change; Marxism.

Balagopalan, S. (2002). Constructing indigenous childhoods: Colonialism, vocational education and the working child. Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, 9(1), 19-34.


Examines a Calcutta street child's experiences with vocational education within a broader historical framework of colonial and post-colonial discourses on formal education and the poor. Provides an ethnographic narrative of the child's experiences, exploring how colonialism, by establishing a modern education system and transforming children's work into wage labor, constitutes a major disjunction in the lives of the poor.
KEY WORDS: Child Labor; Child Welfare; Colonialism; Disadvantaged Youth; Ethnography; Foreign Countries; Poverty; Social Environment; Social Influences; Vocational Education; India (Calcutta); Street Children.
Ball, S. (Ed.). (2004). The Routledge Falmer reader in sociology of education. London; New York: Routledge Falmer.
The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Sociology of Education brings together a carefully selected collection of articles and book chapters to reflect enduring trends in the field of Sociology of Education. Focusing on the major issues confronting education today, this lively and informative Reader provides broad coverage of the field and includes sections on crucial topics such as: social class; globalization; gender; curriculum; social inequality and social justice; students and classrooms. With an emphasis on contemporary pieces that deal with issues relevant to the immediate real world, this volume represents the research and views of some of the most respected authors in the field today. Stephen Ball offers a collection that is theoretically informed, internationally applicable, and universally accessible. In a specially written introduction, Ball provides a much-needed context to the current educational climate. Students of sociology and sociology of education will find this Reader an important route map to further reading and understanding.
KEY WORDS: Educational Sociology; Globalization; Work and Learning.

Bascia, N., Leithwood, K., Livingstone, D. W., Cumming, A., & Dantow, A. (Eds.). (2005). International handbook of educational policy. London: Springer.


This book is the only one of its kind. It has over fifty chapters written by nearly ninety leading researchers from a number of countries and presents contemporary and emergent trends in educational policy research. It captures many of the current dominant educational policy foci, situating current understandings historically, in terms of both how they are conceptualized and in terms of past policy practice. The chapters are empirically grounded, providing illustrations of the conceptual implications contained within them as well as allowing for comparisons across them. The self-reflexivity within chapters with respect to jurisdictional particularities and contrasts allows readers to consider not only a range of approaches to policy analysis but also the ways in which policies and policy ideas play out in different times and places. Sections cover the contemporary strategic emphasis on large-scale reform; substantive emphases at several levels – on leadership and governance, improving teacher quality and conceptualizing learning in various domains around the notion of literacies and concluding, finally, with a contrasting topic, workplace learning, which has had less policy attention and thus allows readers to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of learning and teaching under the bright gaze of policy.
KEY WORDS: Education and State; Philosophy of Education; Educational Change; Work and Learning; School to Work Transition; Work and Learning.

Bauer, J., Festner, D., Gruber, H., Harteis, C., & Heid, H. (2004). The effects of epistemological beliefs on workplace learning. The Journal of Workplace Learning, 16(5), 284-292.


Epistemological beliefs are fundamental assumptions about knowledge and learning. Research in university contexts has shown that they affect the ways and results of student learning. This article transfers the concept of epistemological beliefs on workplace learning. The basic assumption is that employees' epistemological beliefs affect whether they perceive their workplace as learning environments. A study conducted in which the interrelation of employees' epistemological beliefs with their appraisal of the workplace as supportive for learning were investigated. The role of professional hierarchical levels concerning work-related epistemological beliefs was analyzed. No significant interrelation among epistemological beliefs and workplace appraisal was found. Groups from different professional hierarchical levels didn't differ in their workplace appraisal. Consequences about the role of epistemological beliefs for workplace learning are discussed for future research.
KEY WORDS: Workplace Learning; Epistemology; Beliefs; Learning.

Beckett, D., & Hager, P. (2000). Making judgement as the basis for workplace learning: Towards an epistemology of practice. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 19(4), 300-311.


Workplace learning has surfaced as a significant site of adults' informal experiential learning, with implications for the provision and shape of formal education. However, a prohibitive number of variables encumber research into such learning. The authors suggest bypassing the variables by focusing on phenomenal accounts of how professionals (in this instance) make judgement at work, are underpinned by an organic logic derivable from Dewey. The article shows how to characterize a new epistemology of practice through both empirical and conceptual innovation, and thus advances the detail of this new informal workplace learning. Epistemology deals in 5 characteristics central to lifelong learning anyway, namely: the contingent (rather than exclusively formal, sustained, and systematic studies); the practical (rather than exclusively the theoretical); the process (rather than exclusively the assimilation of content); the particular (rather than the exclusively universal and a priori as the "context"); and the affective and the social domains (rather than exclusively the cognitive domain). Fieldwork to date shows, through interview findings, how these are prominent in professional workplace judgments, and what prospects there are for further research on judgment as a site of "organic" learning for adults
KEY WORDS: Workplace Learning; Epistemology; Informal Workplace Learning.

Beckett, D., & Hager, P. (2002). Life, work and learning: Practice in postmodernity. New York: Routledge.


This book argues that adult learning from experiences in paid and unpaid work contexts should be the basis for a new perception of what is truly educative about life. Part I sets out what practice is like in postmodern times. Chapter 1 introduces the argument that 'know how' is important in lifelong learning. Chapter 2 shows organic learning is a manifestation of what it is to be human at work and workplaces can develop structures that advance "whole person" capabilities for purposeful action. Chapter 3 rounds out the concept of know-how by building on organic learning-- in particular showing that practical judgement is central to practice in postmodernity. Chapter 4 shows that broader, more socially and culturally sensitive approaches to practice are available in the realm of policy. Part II theorizes practice anew, from an educational perspective, in light of postmodernity. Chapter 5 is an introduction to theories of practice. Chapter 6 begins to conceptualize practice as the successful performance of work by showing the intimate connection of practice with informal learning. Chapter 7 proposes an alternative to the standard paradigm of learning--one inclusive of practice-based informal workplace learning. Chapter 8 explains the authors' claim that they are strategic postmodernists. Chapter 9 clarifies the emerging paradigm of learning based on dissolution of dualisms and a "contiguous" model of vocational preparation by showing how the notion of judgement is at its heart.
KEY WORDS: Adult Education; Adult Learning; Cognitive Processes; Developed Nations; Educational Philosophy; Educational Practices; Educational Theories; Theory Practice Relationship; Vocational Education; Work Experience Australia; Tacit Knowing; Work Experience Australia.

Billett, S., Fenwick, T., & Somerville, M. (Eds.). (2006). Work, subjectivity and learning: Understanding learning through working life. New York, NY: Springer.


This book focuses on recent efforts to understand learning for and throughout working life. These efforts have moved away from a focus on workplace training to concerns about learning as a component and outcome of engaging in work and work-related activities and interactions. This shift acknowledges a broader set of workplace factors that shape workers' learning and development. Yet equally, it acknowledges that this learning through engagement is also necessarily shaped by the diverse ways that individuals elect to engage or participate in workplace activities. Central here is the issue of individuals' subjectivity and how this is shaped by but also shapes engagement in work and, therefore, what learning flows from their participation. It is in considering the relations among subjectivity, learning and work that it is possible to advance both the conceptual and procedural bases for understanding learning through and for working life. Moreover, the focus on relations among subjectivity, work and learning represents a point of convergence for diverse disciplinary traditions and practices that are provided by the book's contributors. In this way, the contributions represent something of the emerging perspectives that are elaborating the complex relations among subjectivity, work and learning, and circumstances in which they are played out.
KEY WORDS: Learning; Work; Subjectivity; Education; Adult Education; Life-course.

Billett, S., & Somerville, M. (2004). Transformations at work: Identity and learning. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 309-326.


This paper examines how identity and learning are constituted and transformed at work. Its central concern is how individuals engage agentically in and learn through workplace practices, and in ways that transform work. Drawing upon recent research into work and participation in workplaces, the negotiated and contested relationship between workplace practices and individuals' identity and intentionality, and learning is illuminated and discussed. For instance, aged care workers and coal miners acquire work injuries that are almost emblematic of their work identity. Only particularly dramatic events (i.e. serious illness or workplace accidents) wholly transform their identity and views about work practice--their subjectivities. However, it is through the agentic actions of these individuals that workplace practices can be transformed. Yet individuals' agentic action is not necessarily directed to the abstracted and de-contextualized economic and civic goals privileged in lifelong learning policies. Instead, there is relational interdependency between the individual and work that can act to sustain or transform both self and their work. Individuals' agentic action is exercised within these relations in ways directed by their subjectivities. So these relations and that agentic action have policy and practice implications for the conduct of work and learning through and for work.
KEY WORDS: Lifelong Learning; Self Concept; Work Environment.

Boud, D., & Solomon, N. (Eds.). (2001). Work-based learning: A new higher education? Florence: KY: Taylor & Francis.


This three-part book contains 16 chapters exploring work-based learning from a theoretical and case-study perspective in the United Kingdom. Part 1, Framing Work-based Learning, contains the following four chapters: "New Practices for New Times" (David Boud, Nicky Solomon, and Colin Symes); "Repositioning Universities and Work" (David Boud and Nicky Solomon); "Knowledge at Work: Issues of Learning" (David Boud); and "Creating a Work-Based Curriculum" (David Boud). Ten case studies in the second part of the book include: "From Once Upon a Time to Happily Ever After: The Story of Work-Based Learning in the UK Higher Education Sector" (Norman Evans); "Making It Work Institutionally" (Derek Portwood); "Ensuring a Holistic Approach to Work-Based Learning: The Capability Envelope" (John Stephenson); "Working with Partners To Promote Intellectual Capital" (Jonathan Garnett, Alison Comerford, and Neville Webb); "The Possibilities in a Traditional University" (Lynne Caley); "Implementing Work-Based Learning for the First Time" (Jenny Onyx); "Smart Work: What Industry Needs from Partnerships" (Nicholas Shipley); "A Challenge to Assessment and Quality Assurance in Higher Education" (Richard Winter); "Setting the Standards: Judging Levels of Achievement" (Frank Lyons and Mike Bement); and "Earning Academic Credit for Part-Time Work" (Iain S. Marshall and Lynn S. M. Cooper). The final part, Past, Present, and Future, includes "Capital Degrees: Another Episode in the History of Work and Learning" (Colin Symes); and "Future Directions for Work-based Learning: Reconfiguring Higher Education" (David Boud and Nicky Solomon).
KEY WORDS: Academic Achievement; Academic Education; Change Strategies; Corporate Education; Education Work Relationship; Educational Practices; School Business Relationship; Secondary Education; Standard Setting; Student Evaluation; Vocational Education.

Brown, B. L. (2003). Career education models. Trends and issues alert. Washington: DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement.


The evolution of the workplace has required changes in the guidance and counseling practices of career education (CE). Basic elements of CE strategies for enhancing students' career awareness, exploration, and planning are still in place, but contemporary issues such as life-work balance, involuntary career transitions, and mentoring have led to new models that address trends in future careers. The traditional model of CE was designed for workplaces in which vertical movement within a single organization and career longevity were typical. It stressed a series of developmental stages, basic and academic learning, employability skill development, and lifelong learning. More current CE models are designed for workplaces characterized by interorganizational mobility, flexible work arrangements, teamwork, technology, and international relationships. Newer models include the following: (1) the "new careering," which advocates a theory of life as career; (2) the "integrated theory and practice" model, which stresses integration between school-, employer-, and residential-based models developed around lifelong learning needs; and (3) the "Intelligent Career" model, which stresses the importance of knowing how, why, and who when addressing ways to enhance career preparation. The new models are "boundaryless" in that career development can take place through lateral and horizontal, as well as vertical, movement.
KEY WORDS: Career Development; Career Education; Career Guidance; Career Ladders; Career Planning; Horizontal Organization; Lifelong Learning; Occupational Mobility; Skill Development; Teaching Models; Vertical Organization; Work Environment.

Brown, P., Green, A., & Lauder, H. (2001). High skills: Globalization, competitiveness, and skill formation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


This volume draws on the findings of a major international comparative study of national routes to a 'high skills' economy in Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States, and includes data from interviews with over 250 key stakeholders. It offers a comparative examination of 'high skill' policies -- a topic of major public debate that is destined to become of even greater importance in all the developed economies in the early decades of the twenty-first century.
KEY WORDS: Employment Forecasting; Skilled Labour; Work and Learning.

Bryans, P., & Smith, R. (2000). Beyond training: Reconceptualising learning at work. Journal of Workplace Learning, 12(6), 228-235.


Radical shifts are taking place in management theory; equivalent shifts need to occur, we argue, in the theory of training and development. The move towards a knowledge economy makes such a shift particularly urgent. Notions of training tend to foreclose on outcomes; typically they are short-term and assume transferability of skills. Notions of personal development may be insufficiently focused on the workplace. We argue for a conception of workplace learning that foregrounds the dialectical relationship between persons and their organizations. Crucial in that relationship are notions of openness, uncertainty, complexity, relationships, reflection, reframing and restoration.
KEY WORDS: Training; Development; Workplace Learning; Knowledge Management.

Buchmann, M. (2002). Labour market entry and beyond: Some reflections on the changing structure of work. Education + Training, 44(4-5), 217-223.


In countries with well-established vocational training systems (i.e., Austria, Germany, and Switzerland), the changing structure of work is likely to modify the interplay between labor supply and demand. Changes in the relationship between school- and work-based learning, promotion of lifelong learning, and integration of new skill profiles into vocational education are needed.
KEY WORDS: Career Development; Change; Education Work Relationship; Entry Workers; Foreign Countries; Labor Market; Labor Needs; Labor Supply; Occupational Mobility; Vocational Education.

Cunningham, I., Dawes, G., & Bennett, B. (2004). The handbook of work based learning. Aldershot: Gower.


The Handbook of Work Based Learning answers the question of whether learning needs to be based in the realities of organizational life. This unique handbook provides a definitive guide to the set of strategies, tactics and methods for supporting work based learning. The three main parts of the book, which focus in turn on strategies, tactics and methods, are written for both the learner and the professional developer alike. Each part includes a description of the process (strategy, tactic or method), provides examples of what it looks like in action, explains the benefits and the likely limitations and provides a set of operating hints for applying the process.
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