What’s new about workplace learning? Karen Evans Institute of Education University of London
‘the effects of globalisation are so radical thatthose who resist a life of continuing learning risk finding themselves socially marginalised, if not excluded…... Organisations which employ reluctant learners and fail to get them into further learning will share their fate.’ Consultants’ report to the Talent Foundation Dystopia…
What purposes drive wpl ? • Socialisation and enculturation (how we do it here) • Competence, performance and standards (productivity, safety, licence to practice) • Innovation (renewal and competitive advantage) • Equity and social justice (unionisation and employee entitlement)
Innovation – the new (utopian) discourse in work and learning • To create new knowledge means quite literally to recreate the company and everyone in it in a non-stop process of personal and organisational self renewal. In the knowledge creating company, inventing new knowledge is not a specialised activity – …it is a way of behaving, indeed a way of being , in which everyone is a knowledge worker, that is to say an entrepreneur. (Nonaka, 1991, p 97)
Realities:the employment relationship • Intensification of work • differential access to informal learning opportunities and career progression • ‘learning poor’ v ‘learning rich’ environments • power relations between managers and workers • employee ‘voice’-heard or unheard • Social inclusion/exclusion – hidden mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion operate in the knowledge and prior learning are recognised and used in workplaces.
Innovation and workplace learning – a research agenda* • Types of innovation- • research driven • user driven • price driven • What about employee driven innovation? – relatively overlooked in real -life organisational contexts *DPU collaborative project
What we have learnt about the realities of workplace learning from ESRC-TLRP research. • A framework for exploring innovation as workplace learning in context.
Regulatory framework Expansive learning environments Workers’ dispositions The learning workplace Understanding the learning workplace is central to analysing employee-driven innovation
Towards an integrated, cultural approach to improving workplace learning….. • Three overlapping ‘scales’ of activity to be kept in view…individual actors, immediate working environment, wider structural features.
Three dimensions of workplace learning consistently identified as significant: • Workplaces can be characterized as more expansive or restrictive as learning environments. Richer learning generally found where environments are more expansive • Regulation of the employment relationship and Government initiatives have significant impact on opportunities for, and nature of, workplace learning • Dispositions and tacit skills of workers/employees influence the nature of the working environment and the ways in which workers react to and interact with that environment
Improving workplace learning entails: • Constructing more expansive learning environments based on what workers want, need respond positively to in a particular setting (takes dispositions into account) • This may involve changes to working practices /conditions • Planning and activity should be responsive to micro-conditions of specific working groups • Paying attention to power differentials and workplace inequalities as well as individual wants and needs
Working hypothesis • Potential for employee-driven innovation – generating something changed and better – created under these conditions • Newness is created in the learning process • Informed (not driven) by research and intervention
Work-located: first point of departure: the everyday work activity and the work programme Deepened and expanded by intellectual resources from sources outside the workplace Work-related: first point of departure: the bodies of codified knowledge Applied and explored with reference to work problems and work settings Radical challenges for educators…supporting work-located learning
Key questions for the future… • centre on the conditions that characterize workplaces • the interplay between the regulatory frameworks, environments and worker dispositions that support learning • how these can optimally lead to and support employee driven innovation.
ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme • Book: Evans, K., Hodkinson, P., Rainbird, H., Unwin L., (2006) Improving Workplace Learning, Routledge London • Publications and research summaries can be found on website • http://www.tlrp.org/proj/workplace.html