Towards an emergent view of learning work

Publisher:
Taylor & Francis Inc
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International Journal of Lifelong Education, 2010, 29 (3), pp. 359 - 372
Issue Date:
2010-01
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The purpose of this paper is to challenge models of workplace learning that seek to isolate or manipulate a limited set of features to increase the probability of learning. Such models typically attribute learning (or its absence) to individual engagement, manager expectations or organizational affordances and are therefore at least implicitly causative. In contrast, we discuss the contributions of complexity theory principles such as emergence and novelty that suggest that learning work is more a creative and opportunistic process that emerges from contextualized interactional understandings among actors. Using qualitative case study methods, we discuss the experiences of workers in two organizations asked to 'act up' in their managers' role to ensure work continuity. We believe the differences in how workers take up these opportunities result from a complex combination of situational factors that generate invitational patterns signalled from and by various understandings and interactions among actors doing collective work.
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