Uncovering learning at work.

Boud, David ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6883-2722, Solomon, Nicky, Staron, Maret, Leontios, Maria, Rooney, Donna and Harman, Kerry (2003) Uncovering learning at work. Project Report. NSW Department of Education and Training/UTS, Sydney. . [Monograph]

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The Australian Research Council project, Uncovering Learning at Work explored the extent and nature of informal learning and its contribution and significance to the TAFE workplace and its employees. The research was a qualitative study carried out in partnership between the University of Technology, Sydney and the TAFE Professional Development Network unit. This collaborative arrangement was ideal for this study because TAFE, as an organisation, are interested in the relationship between work and learning.

The research employed the term ‘everyday learning’ to describe the phenomenon under investigation. This understanding recognises that there are elements of both formality and informality in all learning situations.

Uncovering Learning at Work was conducted in three stages. The first involved one-to-one interviews and the collection of initial qualitative data. In the second the researchers worked closely with individual workgroups around particular workplace issues. The final stage examined the implications of the project for TAFE and its employees in collaboration with key TAFE stakeholders.

The questions the research focused on were about:
• ideas staff had about learning
• staff perceptions of learning opportunities in TAFE
• how staff constructed learning through their work relationships for their own benefit and for the strategic goals for TAFE
• key strategies for identifying and utilising learning opportunities without undermining existing informal learning processes
• theories of adult learning that took account of the work-related learning of TAFE staff in an organisational context.

This research followed four workgroups over a period of three years. The four workgroups came from two Sydney metropolitan Institutes of TAFE. The workgroups represented a range of organisational areas including a trade teaching unit, an administrative unit, a group of senior managers and a unit responsible for workplace delivery.

Analysis of project data resulted in several important findings. These are presented in four themes, which are briefly discussed in this report: full details are available in the listed publications. The four themes are:

1. What we learn and who we learn from - Three significant areas of learning were evident in analysis of the interviews. Analysis of the project data yielded two interesting findings with regard to who workers learned from. Very few people that were actively sought by staff to help them learn are generally understood as people with an ‘official’ role in promoting workplace learning.

2. Naming learning and naming oneself as a learner – The research suggests there is a complex politics involved in the naming of learning and the naming of oneself as a learner in this organisation. This is further complicated given that TAFE has learning as its raison d’etre and, as a workplace, there is much more informed discourse about workplace learning and its value compared to most other organisations.

3. Spaces of learning – this report suggests ‘Space’ is a helpful concept for thinking about everyday learning in TAFE and at work in general. The research drew on broad understandings of space, identity and learning and found the analysis of everyday learning in spatial terms can open opportunities for investigating workplace learning. The focus drew attention to what was called ‘in-between’ spaces. These new understandings unsettled the binaries that are commonly accepted by most workplaces: on-the-job / off-the-job, worker / learner etc. It is these ‘in-between’ spaces that interesting things were happening in regard to everyday learning.

4. Researching learning in contemporary workplaces - Throughout the project the research team explored the complexities of collaboratively researching workplace learning. This was important because while workplaces are popular sights for contemporary research, and collaborative research is popular catchcry of contemporary researchers, both workplace and collaborative research typically gloss over the complexities and contradictions this type of research often encompasses.

Arising from its analysis, this report puts forward a number of discussion points for consideration by TAFE. The areas for discussion include:
- relationships between informal and formal
- significance of everyday learning
- imposing formality
- languages of learning
- learning dimensions of change
- local relationships
- role for structured learning
- future research.

These areas for discussion suggest some possible strategies that TAFE may consider in order to enhance the everyday learning of the organisation.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
Item ID: 7779
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Dr Kerry Harman
Date Deposited: 03 May 2011 11:12
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 02:41
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/7779

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