Sociomaterial perspectives on work and learning: sites of emergent learning

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Workplace Learning, 2017, 29 (7-8), pp. 566 - 576
Issue Date:
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© 2017, © Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: This paper aims to introduce, explain and illustrate the concept of “sites of emergent learning” (SEL), which pinpoints particular instances of learning in everyday practice. This concept is located within contemporary practice-oriented and sociomaterial approaches to understanding workplace learning. Design/methodology/approach: This conceptual development has been resourced by a secondary analysis of data from three workplace learning studies. These were: an ethnographic study of a residential parenting service; a case study of learning among engineers working on a railway construction site; and a case study of a multicultural unit that aims to enhance health services for a diverse community. All were based in the Sydney metropolitan area. The secondary analysis was undertaken by identifying regular practices within each setting where professionals discuss past and future work. These were then subjected to theoretical scrutiny, identifying common and distinctive features. Findings: SEL were identified within the handover, site-walks and catch-up meeting practices. They arise through and are constituted in relationships between social practices and the materialities of work. SEL involve negotiating, exploring and questioning practice and knowledge associated with it; they are instances within work practices in which work is done about how work gets done, developing new understandings of the past to reshape visions for the future. Alongside these commonalities, each site of emergent learning displayed distinctive features shaped by the particularities of the practices and materialities of each site. Originality/value: This concept is presented as a valuable tool to assist researchers of workplace learning. It elucidates particular learning-intensive features of practice, extending sociomaterial conceptualisations of professional and workplace learning.
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