When considering how people learn through, and are themselves changed by, work, the
processes of learning are largely conceptualised in terms of the immediate work context
and its tasks, and in terms of reflection upon experience. These approaches tend to
obscure the location of work itself in people's lives in late modem societies, and
intentional, future-oriented aspects of learning in this broader context.
In this exploratory case study of police students' learning in community placements,
drawing upon a sociological framework, I consider whether and how five students, and
their project of becoming a police officer, changed as they dealt with the risks of
unfamiliar situations in the light of their intended career. My guiding assumptions about
selves and learning are that both need to be viewed multi-dimensionally. Selves, and
therefore learning, involve temporality, embodiment (senses, actions, feelings and
thoughts), language, relatedness and situatedness.
Using a variety of analytical and interpretive strategies, in an iterative and hermeneutic
process, this thesis examines the recorded experiences of the students during their fourweek
placement. Records such as these afe considered particularly useful for
exploratory case studies, because of their capacity to reveal self-positioning and
concrete socio-historical conditions.
The results were that, although learning could be stimulated by the immediate context,
it was also channelled by the students' wider social and temporal context. Unfrunjliarity
was only a potential starting point for learning, critically influenced by factors such as
learners' understandings of their situation and of their future as a police officer, their
values, skills and self-confidence, their emotional responses to what they encountered,
and the types of guidance available. Students responded creatively to the risks of the
new work environment, thereby creating new situations that also demanded action) in
an ongoing process of bricolage. In so doing, they drew on resources in their private
lives as much as they did those at work. These interactions did not always change a
student's self-positioning, nor, therefore, did they necessarily lead to 1earning or to a
changed perception of the future. The study suggests the potential value of further
exploration of sociological understandings of selves, particularly an ecological
approach in extending our understanding of adults' learning in everyday life in
contemporary society,. as well as our understanding of intentional, future-oriented
aspects of learning.