The facilitative role of workplace supervisors

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2000
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- This study explores the issues involved in the suggestion that workplace supervisors should act as facilitators of the learning of their staff. This suggestion is quite prevalent in the literatures that focus on workplace learning and the learning organisation. The different traditions of adult education have different conceptions of the nature of facilitation. Each makes different assumptions about the role of the facilitator, the nature of the learner, the ethical context and the degree of interpersonal interaction involved. These differing conceptions are explored and the ethical, political, personal and interpersonal assumptions of each conception are described. The workplace is considered in order to develop an account of its characteristics as a context for facilitation. A dual view of social contexts, built on integrative and coercive assumptions is employed to illuminate a range of issues, including workplace ethics and identities. The empirical phase of the study was conducted in two parts. The first involved interviews with existing employees focusing on their work, relationships with supervisors, and the latter's roles in their learning. Secondly, different participants were interviewed frequently during the first three months of their time in a new job. The interviews revealed a disjunction between the participants developing workplace identities and their sense of themselves as whole persons, and discovered a fundamental concern to build and save face for their workplace identities. A trial model of trust building is then employed to explore the participants experiences of trust with their supervisors. The burden of trust with supervisors is found to be asymmetrical, with the fundamental burden falling on the supervisor who needs to be able to trust each staff member to perform-and with staff having to prove their trustworthiness in this regard. These requirements are found to run counter to the requirements for trust in most facilitative relationships, where the burden of trust falls on the learner-with the facilitator needing to prove trustworthy. The role of the participants' supervisors in the participants' learning is examined closely. While all the participants strove to prove themselves trustworthy, and while most of their supervisors developed a sufficient level of trust in them, none of the participants developed sufficient trust in their supervisors to enable them to reveal issues in their learning that reflected adversely on their workplace identities. All hid learning issues from their supervisors and found others, including their peers and the researcher, to help them in their reflections. Their supervisors were highly influential but had only indirect involvements in the learning processes of their staff. Finally the possibilities for supervisory facilitation as might be implemented for each of the traditions' of adult education are considered. This concluding analysis draws on the central issues already explored: workplace identity and the demands of face building and saving, trust building and betrayal, and ethics. [t concludes that the workplace context is more and less capable of supporting facilitative relationships between supervisors and staff, depending on the conception of facilitation being used. Some broader implications for concepts such as the 'learning organisation' and for teacher-student relationships in higher education are drawn.
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