Researching workplace learning in Australia

SAGE Publications Ltd
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The SAGE Handbook of Workplace Learning, 2011, pp. 210 - 223
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This chapter provides a snapshot of research in workplace learning in Australia from the perspective of some of its key players. Workplace learning as an interdisciplinary field covers a wide range of research and programme interests. This is exemplified in the diversity of journals that publish research on workplace learning (Fenwick, 2006). The range and complexity of the field contributes to its richness, but at the same time it presents interesting challenges in terms of making decisions on what is and what is not workplace learning. In order to identify and summarise the theoretical frameworks, conceptions and contributions to understandings of Australian workplace learning knowledge and practices we used an approach that focused on the researchers’ own representation of their workplace learning research. At the same time we also recognise that as authors of this chapter we are making our own selection of what should be included within the scope of workplace learning research and we are re-presenting the researchers’ representations of their work. A brief picture of the broad socio-political context in Australia is provided in order to draw attention to features that influence research in workplace learning. We believe that the way research in workplace learning is undertaken and the nature and shape of its contributions to knowledge are a consequence of a dynamic relationship between academic researchers, institutional settings and government policies. The policies and settings provide both boundaries and opportunities, and the way these are enacted upon is influenced by a number of factors to do with the researchers — their disciplinary histories and professional trajectories, together with their institutional, national and international networks. We begin the chapter by explaining our methodological approach. This is followed by a description of some of the features of the Australian research policy context of workplace learning. This leads into a section on the various understanding of workplace learning by Australian researchers in the field. Drawing on the submitted profiles we then consider the trajectories of the researchers and connect these to their contributions and their research methodologies. We conclude with some thoughts on the position of Australian workplace learning research and the conditions in which it has developed
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