Re-thinking workplace learning : worker subjectivity/ies as sites of alignment and resistance

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The concern of this thesis is the way workplace learning is able to be known and spoken about and the effects of the contemporary privileging of an experiential learning discourse in the workplace. Following an analytic method outlined by Foucault, I explore a field of multiple and mobile force relations between professional developers, trade teachers, workplace learning academics, senior managers, organisational consultants and organisational learning theorists, and the purposes to which discourses of workplace learning might be put. The research site for the study was a recent industry-university collaboration that explored workplace learning in a large public sector organisation. Using various organisational texts including: interview transcripts from workers participating in the industry-university research project, documents produced during the project, documents produced by a Professional Development Unit (the industry partners on the project), and academic texts on organisational learning, I examine the circulation and intersection of different workplace learning discourses. I also examine the positioning, position taking and resistances around the subject position of ‘the workplace learner’ in a workplace. A number of Foucauldian themes guide the analyses in this thesis including: power as multiformed, power as relational, the distribution of power, multiple subjectivities, and subjectivity as a site of resistance. This enables an examination of workplace learning discourses as instruments of power, but also as providing points of resistance. This thesis makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the fields of organisational learning and workplace learning by foregrounding complex mechanisms whereby technologies of power interplay with technologies of the self. These citings/sitings/sightings of power and subjectivity have implications for professional development practices and the ‘management’ of workplace learning, as well as the practices of workplace and organisational learning researchers.
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