Materials for Teaching, Research and Policy Making



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KEY WORDS: Work and Learning; Workbased Learning; Organization; Skills.

Daniels, H., & Warmington, P. (2007). Analysing third generation activity systems: Labour-power, subject position and personal transformation. Journal of Workplace Learning, 19(6), 377-391.


In this paper, Daniels and Warmington describe how Engeström's "third generation" activity theory, with its emphasis on developing conceptual tools to understand dialogues, multiple perspectives and networks of interacting activity systems, has informed research into professional learning in multi-agency service settings in England. Working with multi-professional teams in five English setting, the researchers sought to understand and facilitate the expansive learning that takes place in and for multi-agency work. Analysis of data suggests the need to understand activity systems in terms of contradictions, which may be developed through reference to: the notion of labour-power; subject positioning and identity within activities; and emotional experiencing in processes of personal transformation. The general working hypothesis of learning itself requires expansion to include notions of experiencing and identity formation within an account that includes systematic and coherent analysis of the wider social structuring of society.
KEY WORDS: Activity Theory; CHAT; Labour-Power; Subjectivity; Identity; Transformative Learning.

Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2001). Learning communities: Understanding the workplace as a complex system. New directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 92(Winter), 85-97.


Complexity theory informs this discussion of how collective learning practices can support personal learning. The learning system of a school is examined to understand the relationships, disequilibrium, and engagement of a learning community.
KEY WORDS: Complexity Theory; Learning Communities.

De Bruijn, E., & Volman, M. (2000). Changes in occupational structure and occupational practice: A challenge to education. European Journal of Women's Studies, 7(4), 455-474.


Responses to developments in the labor market, occupational structure, & occupational practice, many aspects of vocational education & training are subjects of discussion & in transition among Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) countries. Some occupations are integrating while others are differentiating. New methods of production & organization mean new types of employee competencies are necessary: problem-solving & social-communicative skills are becoming more important. This article focuses on the importance & the possibilities of shaping these developments. The significance of changing qualification requirements is discussed for the technical, service, care, and economic-administrative sectors. Innovations in vocational education and training are reviewed: (1) recognizing prior learning, & (2) developing flexible, modular educational pathways. Examples from the Netherlands are provided.
KEY WORDS: Employment Changes; Labor Market; Occupational Structure; Job Training; Vocational Education; Education Work Relationship; Netherlands.

Elmholdt, C. (2004). Knowledge management and the practice of knowledge sharing and learning at work: A case study. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 327-339.


This article offers a critique of knowledge management. The critique is empirically based on the case study of a Danish software production company's (A-Soft) knowledge management strategy of implementing an information technology (IT) tool known as 'Knowledge Centre' (KC). The article argues: (1) the discourses on knowledge and learning informing KC and everyday practice are incompatible. KC conceptualizes knowledge as a resource that can be stored and retrieved from databases, and learning as an individual acquisition. The company's existing practice of knowledge sharing and learning seems better conceived from a situated and embodied perspective, seeing knowledge as an enactment inseparable from action, and learning as social participation. (2) The management's preoccupation with implementing technological solutions for codifying, archiving, and creating global access to information is conflicting with the practitioners' focus on seeking context-rich information through collegial networks. Moreover, it is suggested that cultivation of a culture where viable communities of practice and collegial networks can flourish may be more important than technological advancement. (3) The strategy of exercising knowledge management through control and ownership invokes a discourse that threatens to subjectify the employees as replaceable resources in a lifelong learning imperative.
KEY WORDS: Technological Advancement; Educational Technology; Information Technology; Knowledge Level; Criticism; Computer Software Evaluation; Case Studies.

Engestrom, Y. (2004). New forms of learning in co-configuration work. Journal of Workplace Learning, 16(1/2), 11-21.


Focuses on the theories and study of organizational and workplace learning. Outlines the landscape of learning in co-configuration settings, a new type of work that includes interdependency between multiple producers forming a strategic alliance, supplier network, or other such pattern of partnership which collaboratively puts together and maintains a complex package, integrating material products and services. Notes that learning in co-configuration settings is typically distributed over long, discontinuous periods of time. It is accomplished in and between multiple loosely interconnected activity systems and organizations operating in divided local and global terrains and representing different traditions, domains of expertise, and social languages. Learning is crucially dependent on the contribution of the clients or users. Asserts that co-configuration presents a twofold learning challenge to work organizations and outlines interventionist and longitudinal approaches taken.
KEY WORDS: Workplace Learning; Organizational Theory; Configuration Management.

Engeström, Y. (2007). Enriching the theory of expansive learning: Lessons from journeys toward coconfiguration. Mind, culture, and activity. Learning and Technology at Work, Special Issue, 14(1-2), 23-39.


In this article, the author describes an intervention study aimed at analyzing and transforming work and learning in three organizations (a bank, a primary health care center, and a hi-tech company). The study allows Engeström to investigate forms of coconfiguration work in which there is a focus on the development of products and services that adapt to the changing needs of users. The working hypothesis of our study was that the forms of expansive learning (that is, the processes by which a work organization resolves its internal contradictions in order to construct qualitatively new ways of working) required for coconfiguration work have transformative, horizontal, and subterranean features. The article argues tentatively (as a stimulus to further theoretical and empirical research) that our working hypothesis has to be enriched by the notion of experiencing, which serves to bridge the design and implementation of organizational transformation. In terms of the role played by tools and technologies in work and learning, the notion of instrumentality is introduced to further enrich our working hypothesis, emphasizing that expansive learning for coconfiguration work involves tools and novel mediational concepts in the form of multilayered, integrated toolkits.
KEY WORDS: Activity Theory; CHAT; Transformative Learning; Organization.

Evans, K., Hodkinson, P., & Unwin, L. (2002). Working to learn: Transforming learning in the workplace. London: RoutledgeFalmer.


This book looks at the changing nature of work and the effect this has on the skill and knowledge requirements of individuals, its implications for the workplace and employment, and ways in which these changing requirements can be met. This book brings together the implications of workplace changes for educators, managers and society, especially in an age where jobs and work - and the success of organizations - are increasingly dependent on developing skills and knowledge.
KEY WORDS: Organizational Learning; Communication In Organizations; Employees; Training; Case Studies.

Fenwick, T. (2003). Innovation: Examining workplace learning in new enterprises. Journal of Workplace Learning, 15(3), 123-132.


Innovation is argued here to be a significant and complex dimension of learning in work, involving a mix of rational, intuitive, emotional and social processes embedded in activities of a particular community of practice. Dimensions of innovative learning are suggested to include level (individual, group, organization), rhythm (episodic or continuous), and magnitude of creative change (adaptive or generative) involved in the learning process. Drawing from a study of women who leave organizational employment to develop an enterprise of self-employment, this article explores these dimensions of innovative learning. Two questions guide the analysis: what conditions foster innovative learning; and what are the forms and processes of the innovative learning process? Findings suggest that innovative processes involve multiple strategies and demand conditions of freedom, patience, support, and recognition.
KEY WORDS: Innovation; Organizational Learning; Small Firms; Women; Entrepreneurship.

Fenwick, T. (2006). Learning as grounding and flying: Knowledge, skill and transformation in changing work contexts. Journal of Industrial Relations, 48(5), 691-706.


This article closely examines what is meant, a necessary step before activities in workplace skill development and skill transformation can be pursued. The author identifies but rejects four conventional conceptions of skill. These four include the conception: that a skill exists as a discrete competency, that a skill is 'acquired' and is centered in the individual, that work skill (and knowledge) is learned through mental reflection on 'concrete' experience, and that skill development is about behavior, not politics. The article then goes on to investigate four contemporary theories the author deems more applicable to changing work environments: learning as participation in situated practices, as expansion of objects and ideas, as 'translation' and mobilization, and as embodied emergence. Drawing insights from these four perspectives, a conception of work learning embedding a double movement of 'flying' and 'grounding' is offered. The argument is theory-driven and largely focused on work contexts subject to rapid knowledge transformation.
KEY WORDS: Learning; Skill; Knowledge; Transformation; Work.

Fenwick, T. (2007). Escaping/becoming subjects: Learning to work the boundaries in boundaryless work. In S. Billett, T. Fenwick & M. Somerville (Eds.), Work, Subjectivity and Learning (Vol. 6, pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Springer.


In this chapter, Fenwick explores the learning processes by which people come both to recognise and constitute their subjectivities at work. Subjectivity is realised through enactment: articulations meshed with the boundaries defining the conditions, activities, geographic locations and positions that they find themselves negotiating in different work environments. Always, subjectivity is produced by power and acted on by power. As well, usually the subject exercises power, sometimes to resist the very power that is shaping it, but always from within the socio-psychic forces and resources that constitute it. Agency, it is argued here, is articulated in the subject's recognition of both the processes of its own constitution, finding openings for resistance and subversion. Fenwick focuses upon so-called 'boundaryless workers', those relying for their income upon a series of contracts with different employers. Drawing from a study of professional workers (nurses and adult educators) in boundaryless employment, the chapter examines their dual movements of constituting subjectivity through both lines of anchorage and lines of flight animating their daily negotiations of tasks, objects, knowledge and relationships. These dual movements of 'escaping/becoming' in work, and the boundary constitution supporting them, are unlikely to be restricted to contract workers. However, their explicit activities of boundary work help amplify a phenomenon that may well be shared more broadly among workers in the new economy.
KEY WORDS: Subjectivity; Learning; Power; Boundaries; Work; Non-Standard Labour; Precarious Employment; Professionals.

Field, J. (2000). Governing the ungovernable: Why lifelong learning policies promise so much yet deliver so little. Educational Management & Administration, 28(3), 249-261.


Lifelong learning is often viewed as "human resource development in drag," since debates are largely driven by economic preoccupations. Governments generally restrict their interventions to vocational, non-innovative training measures. England's faltering policy must be revamped to address needs for informal and information-age learning.
KEY WORDS: Adult Learning; Education Work Relationship; Educational Policy; Foreign Countries; Government Role; Human Capital; Lifelong Learning; Postsecondary Education; Private Sector; Program Effectiveness; Public Sector; Training.

Foley, G. (1999). A political economy of workplace change and learning. Studies in the Education of Adults, 31(2), 181-196.


This paper argues that political economy and labour process theory are essential to a proper understanding of workplace change and learning. In our time there is a struggle for comparative advantage as enterprises and nations compete to see which can most effectively exploit new technologies and human capital. This is the latest manifestation of the logic of capitalism, which creates an unwinnable competition among producers and in turn generates periodic crises, massive inequalities within and between nations and what appear to be radical changes in the organisation of production. But the way work is organised in capitalism does not fundamentally change -- it still rests on the attempts of capital to control the work process and extract the labour surplus. Worker resistance is endemic in this intrinsically exploitative labour process, and this resistance has a learning dimension. If they are going to act effectively on them adult educators need to understand the capitalist political economy and labour process and the resistance and learning they generate.
KEY WORDS: Workplace Change; Worker Resistance; Labour Process.

Frost, N., & Taylor, R. (2001). Patterns of change in the university: The impact of 'Lifelong Learning' and the 'World of Work'. Studies in the Education of Adults, 33(1), 49-59.


Lifelong Learning is agreed to be a key concept in the new "knowledge society". This paper discusses the nature of the changed environment of higher education and the influence of adult education theory and practice upon lifelong learning. Currently, commitment to lifelong learning, as far as higher education is concerned, is largely rhetorical. The paper discusses the fundamental changes in higher education that will be needed if this rhetoric is to be turned into reality. Both government policy and the wider social and political context make the relationship between the university and the "world of work" increasingly important. Work-related learning, as an aspect of lifelong learning, is thus a significant development in higher education and the paper discusses its positive and negative aspects, viewed from the perspective of radical, social purpose education.
KEY WORDS: Lifelong Learning; University; Changes in Work; New Work World.

Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (1999). Credentialism, national targets, and the learning society: Perspectives on educational attainment in the UK steel industry. Journal of Educational Policy, 14(6), 605-617.


A set of National Learning Targets by the UK is to be achieved by 2002. Revised from a previous set of National Targets for Education and Training (NTETs), the latest ones embrace 11-21-year-olds, adults and employers and promote a credentialist approach to both economic & social development. According to the National Advisory Council for Education and Training (NACETT), a primary purpose is to make the country more competitive internationally and to promote social cohesion. Drawing on a study of how one occupational sector, the steel industry, measures up to the national targets for the adult workforce. Results of the study question the appropriateness of using qualifications-target as a proxy for adult capability in the workplace industrial viability. Argued is that the credential approach detracts from the real challenges faced in becoming a learning society in the UK.
KEY WORDS: Adolescents; Adult Education; Credentials; Economic Development; Education Work Relationship; Industry; Job Skills; Lifelong Learning; National Standards; Post Secondary Education; Secondary Education; Social Development; Young Adults.

Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (2005). Older and wiser? Workplace learning from the perspective of experienced employees. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 24(1), p21-39.


This paper explores the (changing) role of older, experienced employees in the workplace in terms of their own needs and opportunities for learning and in the context of changing organizational expectations. It draws on Lave and Wenger's (1991) theory of situated learning and the notion of 'learning as participation' as starting points for examining the types of learning opportunities experienced by older workers. The discussion relates the nature of such opportunities to the changing workplace contexts in which employees are located. The article presents illustrative data from a recent research project that focused on how older experienced workers learn at work in two contrasting organizations. A brief review of literature is provided, which discusses the changing nature of work and the implications for learning. The paper then describes and contrasts the sites from which the data presented in this paper were collected, and the data collection methods that have been utilised. An analysis of the research data is presented and the authors discuss what the evidence reveals about the types of learning opportunities older employees are experiencing and how they make sense of them. The analysis suggests that from the perspective of experienced employees, factors such as organizational culture and history, the way jobs are designed and work is organized, and the way people are managed and their performance is judged, help explain the lived realities of workplace learning and provide messages for enhancing workforce development. The paper argues that contrasting forms of work organization and approaches to managing employees are likely to generate different learning environments and opportunities for workplace learning. It concludes by calling for more empirical research to explore the relationship between work organization and learning and to increase understanding of the implications for what and how different groups of employees learn at work.
KEY WORDS: Employees; Organizational Culture; Education Work Relationship; Surveys; Interviews; Employee attitudes; Adult Learning.

Garrick, J., & Rhodes, C. (Eds.). (2000). Research and knowledge at work: Perspectives, case-studies and innovative strategies. New York: Routledge.


This book, which contains 15 chapters by various authors, aims to conceptualize new ways that knowledge is being "legitimized" through various formal and informal workplace-based research practices. It examines the new legitimations critically, and analyzes possible directions for future developments in work-based research and "knowledge" formation. Following the first chapter, "Legitimizing Knowledge at Work" by the editors, John Garrick and Carl Rhodes, the book includes the following essays: (Part 1, Knowledge, Learning, and the Practice of Work) "Working Knowledge" (Ronald Barnett); "Research on Work, Research at Work: Postmodern Perspectives" (Richard Edwards and Robin Usher); "The Crisis of Scientific Research" (Christine Ewan and Dennis Calvert); (Part 2, Whose Knowledge? Collaboration and Research in and around Work) "Globalizing the Intelligent Organization" (Stewart Clegg); "Knowledge and Control in the Japanese Workplace" (Keiko Morita); "Organizational Knowledge, Professional Practice, and the Professional Doctorate at Work" (Alison Lee, Bill Green, and Marie Brennan); "Research and Engagement with Trade Unions: Bridging the Solitudes" (Carla Lipsig-Mumme); "The Negotiated Management of Meanings: Research for Policy" (John McIntyre and Rosie Wickert); "Research Partnerships at Work: New Identities for New Times" (Hermine Scheeres and Nicky Solomon); (Part 3, Changing Practices of Research at Work) "The Construction of 'Working Knowledge' and (Mis)interpretive Research" (John Garrick); "'Doing' Knowledge at Work: Dialogue, Monologue, and Power in Organizational Learning" (Carl Rhodes); "An Adventure in 'Postmodern' Action Research: Performativity, Professionalism, and Power" (Jill Sanguinetti); "Virtual Research in Performative Times" (Robin Usher and Richard Edwards); (Part 4, Conclusions) "Inside the Knowledge Works; Reviewing the Terrain" (Carl Rhodes and John Garrick). Each chapter contains reference lists.
KEY WORDS: Employees; Technological Innovations; Economic Aspects; Organizational Learning; Work and Learning.

Gherardi, S. (2005). Organizational knowledge: The texture of workplace learning. Oxford: Blackwell.


This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of practice-based organizational learning and knowing. The book involves the author's detailed study of safety practices in different corporate settings and his description of how learning, knowing and organizing are practised. Centred on the concepts of "knowing in practice" and the "texture" of organizational knowledge, this book gives a rich account of how organizations learn and how corporate practices and policies evolve.
KEY WORDS: Workplace Learning; Private Sector.

Guile, D. (2003). From 'credentialism' to the 'practice of learning': Reconceptualising learning for the knowledge economy. Policy Futures in Education, 1(1), 83-106.


This article argues that there is a paradox at the heart of United Kingdom and European Union policies for learning: the knowledge economy debate rests on a traditional interpretation of the concept of learning (i.e. the acquisition of existing knowledge and skill), yet the challenge of the knowledge economy is to produce new knowledge and skill. Over coming current credentialist approaches involves rethinking what is meant by 'learning'. Drawing on activity theory, the article introduces the concept of 'reflexive learning' to illustrate how to reformulate public education policies to prepare learners for working and living in a knowledge society/economy.
KEY WORDS: Knowledge Economy; Credentials; Reflexive Learning.

Hager, P. (2001). Workplace judgement and conceptions of learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 13(7/8), 352-359.


Judgment is a pivotal notion for understanding learning. But how we view judgment is crucially shaped by our favoured conception of learning. The favoured conception of learning is shown to distort judgement, while an emerging conception of learning does justice both to judgement and learning from work.
KEY WORDS: Workplace Learning; Learning Styles.

Hager, P. (2004). Conceptions of learning and understanding learning at work. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(1), 3-17.


Recent research on learning in work situations has focused on concepts such as "productive learning" and "pedagogy of vocational learning". In investigating what makes learning productive and what pedagogies enhance this, there is a tendency to take the notion of learning as unproblematic. This paper argues that much writing on workplace learning is strongly shaped by people's understandings of learning in formal educational situations. Such assumptions distort attempts to understand learning at work. The main focus of this paper is to problematize the concept of 'learning' and to identify the implications of this for attempts to understand learning at work and the conditions that enhance it. An alternative conception of learning that promises to do more justice to the richness of learning at work is presented and discussed.
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