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Embedding learning in work and using learning in work Some lessons from recent research and policy innovation Ewart Keep.

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Presentation on theme: "Embedding learning in work and using learning in work Some lessons from recent research and policy innovation Ewart Keep."— Presentation transcript:

1 Embedding learning in work and using learning in work Some lessons from recent research and policy innovation Ewart Keep

2 The Standard Policy Discourse The standard, OECD-wide policy discourse on skill states that: skill skill learning learning knowledge knowledge are now the key drivers of competitive advantage in an era of globalisation.

3 More is Better Leaving aside the question of whether this might not be a bit of an over-simplification, much resultant policy discourse appears remarkably uninterested in understanding anything very much about the: nature nature creation creation usage usage of skill, learning or knowledge. WE JUST WANT MORE OF IT (WHATEVER IT IS)!

4 For Example…... The English Learning and Skills Council (annual budget £11 billion) has never once, in its 7-year life, yet chosen to hold a serious discussion about what constitutes learning, how it takes place, or how it might be enhanced (i.e. curriculum, pedagogy, learning environment, etc). Instead, it has spent its time chasing targets.

5 More, But How……? If we want more skills, then understanding how they are: Created in the workplace Created in the workplace Subsequently deployed to produce productive value Subsequently deployed to produce productive value Would seem like important building blocks for policy.

6 15 YEARS AGO 15 years ago, research on workplace learning was sparse, tended to be based around theoretical constructs derived from psychology (e.g. Kolbs learning cycle and single and double-loop learning), and was founded on very limited evidence of actual learning practices in real workplaces. It discussed what ought to happen, not what happened (and students and practitioners often spotted this!).

7 The Learning Organisation Much of the literature was highly normative, based around models of the perfect learning organisation (Peter Senge and friends). Much of the literature was highly normative, based around models of the perfect learning organisation (Peter Senge and friends). A great deal of energy was spent defining the LO, and in debating (not very conclusively) whether (and how) a learning organisation was different from organisational learning. A great deal of energy was spent defining the LO, and in debating (not very conclusively) whether (and how) a learning organisation was different from organisational learning.

8 Communitarian Visions Much of the LO literature was shot through with a communitarian set of values about personal actualisation, organisational transfiguration, and a new set of organisational values that would put development and ethics ahead of profits. OD people liked it, MBAs generally hated it!

9 Not Very Helpful Given that the vast bulk of organisations did not appear to be LOs Given that the vast bulk of organisations did not appear to be LOs Given that the few LOs that could be identified tended either to be exceptional organisations or not to be very successful (e.g. Rover Group). Given that the few LOs that could be identified tended either to be exceptional organisations or not to be very successful (e.g. Rover Group). The LO literature had limited resonance with practitioners or policy makers.

10 What Was Lacking Hard data on how people learned in and through their day-to-day jobs. Hard data on how people learned in and through their day-to-day jobs. How lower status workers learned. How lower status workers learned. What characteristics of organisational design and job structuring aided or impeded learning on the job. What characteristics of organisational design and job structuring aided or impeded learning on the job.

11 And Also…….. Any sort of simple diagnostic that would tell someone how rich a learning environment was offered by any given workplace. Thus publicly-funded apprenticeships were often placed with employers and workplaces where they were doomed to deliver weak/poor/shallow learning from day one.

12 But Things Have Changed And for once, for the better!!!! Karen Evans et al Improving Workplace Learning, Abingdon: Routledge. Karen Evans et al Improving Workplace Learning, Abingdon: Routledge. Michael Eraut & Wendy Hirsch The Significance of Workplace Learning for Individuals, Groups and Organisations, SKOPE Monograph No. 9, Oxford. Michael Eraut & Wendy Hirsch The Significance of Workplace Learning for Individuals, Groups and Organisations, SKOPE Monograph No. 9, Oxford.

13 Expansive-Restrictive Learning Environments Lorna Unwin and Alison Fuller in Evans et al. Evolved from work being doen on why some apprenticeships worked well, and others failed. Explanation sought in nature of the work/learning environment.

14 The Framework

15 The framework

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22 What the Framework Allows Can ID workplaces where apprenticeship will work, and those where it will not. Can ID workplaces where apprenticeship will work, and those where it will not. Can more generally be used to audit a workplace for learning potential/density. Can more generally be used to audit a workplace for learning potential/density. Simple and easy to deploy. Simple and easy to deploy.

23 Eraut and Hirsch Commissioned to provide a synthesis and overview of current knowledge on workplace learning and its links to performance. Draws on their own work, and on that of many others. Looks at both new entrants to a job/profession and mid-career development activities.

24 Key Point The vast bulk of learning in the workplace is: informal informal uncertified uncertified embedded in the process of doing the job embedded in the process of doing the job often impossible to record, quantify or certify often impossible to record, quantify or certify

25 Work Processes with learning as a by-product Participation in group processes Participation in group processes Working alongside others Working alongside others Consultation with colleagues Consultation with colleagues Tackling challenging tasks and roles Tackling challenging tasks and roles Problem solving Problem solving Trying things out Trying things out Consolidating, extending and refining skills Consolidating, extending and refining skills Working with clients Working with clients

26 Learning Actions located within work or learning processes Asking questions Asking questions Getting information Getting information Locating people who act as resources/knowledge sources Locating people who act as resources/knowledge sources Negotiating access Negotiating access Listening and observing Listening and observing Reflecting Reflecting Learning from mistakes Learning from mistakes Giving and receiving feedback Giving and receiving feedback Using mediating artifacts (e.g. databases, spreadsheets) Using mediating artifacts (e.g. databases, spreadsheets)

27 Learning Processes at or near the workplace Being supervised Being supervised Being coached Being coached being mentored being mentored Shadowing Shadowing Visits to other sites Visits to other sites Conferences Conferences Short courses Short courses Working for a qualification Working for a qualification Independent study Independent study

28 Balance Between These Bulk of learning takes place in first box. Bulk of learning takes place in first box. Most attention tends to be focused on last box (not least by policy makers). Most attention tends to be focused on last box (not least by policy makers). Impact of courses is often slight and often mainly to do with networking. Impact of courses is often slight and often mainly to do with networking.

29 Factors Affecting Workplace Learning Feedback and supportChallenge and value of the work Confidence and commitment Personal agency and motivation Learning Factors

30 Context Factors Encounters and relationships with people at work Allocation and structuring of work Individual participation and expectations of their performance and progress Context Factors

31 Key Dimension The allocation of structuring of work was central to determining the level and success of learning because it impacted on: The difficulty or challenge of the job The difficulty or challenge of the job The extent to which activity was individual or collaborative The extent to which activity was individual or collaborative The opportunities for meeting, observing and working with people who had more or different expertise, and for forming relationships that provide feedback and support. The opportunities for meeting, observing and working with people who had more or different expertise, and for forming relationships that provide feedback and support.

32 Attributes of a Learning Culture Confidence and trust in managers and colleagues Confidence and trust in managers and colleagues Mutual learning and support Mutual learning and support Giving and receiving feedback without blame Giving and receiving feedback without blame Learning from experience, positive or negative Learning from experience, positive or negative Learning from colleagues, clients and visitors Learning from colleagues, clients and visitors Locating and using knowledge from outside sources Locating and using knowledge from outside sources Attention to the emotional dimension of work Attention to the emotional dimension of work Discussing and reviewing learning opportunities Discussing and reviewing learning opportunities Reviewing work processes and opportunities for quality improvement. Reviewing work processes and opportunities for quality improvement.

33 The Role of Managers Managers have a key role in developing a culture of mutual support and learning, not in trying to provide all of it themselves. 1. Use of work allocation and job design to create learning 2. To create trust 3. To appraise and give feedback on both work and learning

34 Other Topics Covered Nature and meaning of group work and learning Nature and meaning of group work and learning The nature of performance The nature of performance Learning trajectories Learning trajectories Modes of cognition Modes of cognition Transferring knowledge Transferring knowledge Learning and innovation Learning and innovation How do organisations facilitate and plan learning How do organisations facilitate and plan learning Atomised versus holistic approaches to learning Atomised versus holistic approaches to learning

35 Weaknesses Tends to have more to say about the skills and the work organisation and job design of higher level workers (managers, nurses, engineers, accountants).

36 Skill Usage and Work Organisation If we now know lots more about how skill is created inside the workplace, what do we know about how it is used therein. The answer in the UK is quite a lot, but its a bit depressing.

37 Using Learning in Work Low Paid work in the UK - tiny jobs, limited progression, and some over- qualification. Low Paid work in the UK - tiny jobs, limited progression, and some over- qualification. LSC Large Employers Survey LSC Large Employers Survey Skills Survey time series Skills Survey time series

38 LSC Large Employers Survey 2007 Survey of 201 large (1000+ employees, mainly 5000+) Asked a range of questions about recruitment, training and job design/quality.

39 Job Quality by main occupational group

40 Skills Survey Data

41 Overall The UK has many low discretion, low skilled jobs. The UK has many low discretion, low skilled jobs. Their number is not shrinking and may be growing Their number is not shrinking and may be growing Across the economy as a whole, skill requirements are rising, but slower than the rate at which the workforces qualification levels are rising. Across the economy as a whole, skill requirements are rising, but slower than the rate at which the workforces qualification levels are rising. A large amount of skill is being seriously under-used. A large amount of skill is being seriously under-used.

42 Where Does Policy Go Next? Two Options Workplace = black box into which more skills are injected, i.e. more of the same (again, and again, and again…….) A three-legged policy - better supply, effort to stimulate underlying demand, and attempts to help improve usage in the workplace.

43 Examples Model 1 - England, where we now have world class targets at every level to chase. Model 1 - England, where we now have world class targets at every level to chase. Model 2 - Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, and now New Zealand. Model 2 - Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, and now New Zealand.

44 Why Has Model 2 Emerged? Countries asking why the skills bang isnt bigger for the bucks expended. Countries asking why the skills bang isnt bigger for the bucks expended. Exposure to international competition makes continued success problematic (e.g. Ireland). Exposure to international competition makes continued success problematic (e.g. Ireland). Concerns about spreading success across whole population, not just upper echelons. Concerns about spreading success across whole population, not just upper echelons. Realisation that more skill does not = economic success UNLESS other things change as well. Realisation that more skill does not = economic success UNLESS other things change as well.

45 Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand All 3 have decided to try a partnership approach to changing skill utilisation. All 3 have decided to try a partnership approach to changing skill utilisation. Following in footsteps of Scandinavians Following in footsteps of Scandinavians A chance to experiment with workplace innovation, work organisation and job design. A chance to experiment with workplace innovation, work organisation and job design.


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