Work, Subjectivity and Learning: Understanding Learning through Working Life

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However, the related activities. Giddens proposes a key role for human Indeed, others suggest individuals are less con- agency in the social structuring of knowledge strained or even unconstrained by these structural Malloch-Chap Rousseau, Of course, this view Workplace affordances is strongly refuted by structuralists e.

Work, Subjectivity and Learning: Understanding Learning through Working Life

Ratner, who claim that individuals are unable to Workplace affordances comprise the degree by separate themselves from the social world. Central which individuals are invited to participate in and to considerations of the extent and role of human learn through work practices. Although reflecting engaging with it Baldwin, These practices are status that others might ascribe to what constitutes shaped by situational factors and local negotia- worthwhile work Billett et al.

Therefore, tions Engestrom and Middleton, ; Suchman, a more personally relative approach about what ; Wenger, When individuals are paid to engage in work- Each of the theoretical orientations is quite place activities, they are invited and expected to distinctive in their advocacy of the relative pur- engage in ways that contribute to their continuity. Moreover, This includes maintaining or improving the stand- each orientation can explain particular workplace ing and employment of individuals or cohorts of circumstances. Therefore, there may well be individuals in the workplace.

Because work- degree by which it can be openly exercised will places are contested e. Bernhardt, ; Darrah, vary. This is perhaps what Evans refers to ; Hull, , the distribution of workplace as bounded agency. Indeed, sometimes, the exer- affordances is far from being benign.


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Instead, the cise of consistency and limits to work agency is distribution is influenced by workplace hierarchies, legitimated through the need for strict adherence group affiliations, personal relations, workplace to particular practices e. In tices whose enactment is premised in relationships coalmines, skilled workers would not assist the between the two. This exercise of socially struc- participation in learning of a worker unaffiliated tured institutions remains incomplete without with their union Billett, , as this would acknowledging how individuals engage with them.

McBrier and Wilson, These two concepts and In these ways, workplace norms and practices their interdependence are now elaborated in turn. Individuals par- and elect to engage in have cognitive consequences ticipate simultaneously in a number of social i. Individuals denied support and practices Lave and Wenger, , such as work- inclusion may have more limited learning oppor- places.

However, the quality of their engagement tunities than those invited to participate and sup- in these practices will not be uniform. Full-bodied ported by experienced co-workers. Yet, there may participation in one social practice can be con- be consequences beyond opportunities for skil trasted by reluctance in another. The quality of fulness, when affordances are weak or belligerent. Workers of a South Vietnamese heritage they may learn the importance of acting in ways rejected teamwork in an American manufacturing that align themselves to powerful individuals to plant, believing this work practice reflected the protect their own interests, their standing or the very communal, indeed communist values and interests of those with whom they are affiliated.

This agency is, as noted, Yet, the affordances are dynamic. Therefore, learning through are constantly transforming due to changes in engagement in social practices, such as work- those factors e. Skinner, Equally, work- places, is not a unidirectional process leading to place affordances are subject to constant change, socialisation or enculturation with the outcome in terms of tasks, goals, interactions, participants being the reproduction of situational values and and relations Billett et al.

This dynamic practices.


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This is because these to their personal history and subjectivities e. More than being once-off sources of engage with and construct what is afforded them knowledge that result in some fixed cognitive by that social practice is relationally shaped legacy, inter-psychological processes are neces- through subjectivities and agency. Despite the goal-directed activities and interac- However, this explanation of experience as inten- tions that comprise the observable elements of tional and active engagement needs to include the work and their distribution being shaped by social subtle, yet ubiquitous, social suggestions that are norms and practices, individuals also exercise encountered almost unconsciously in the conduct their agency in determining how they construe, of daily life.

These are analogous to what Bourdieu construct and engage in work. This agentic action refers to as habitus: the battery of clues, and its exercise, as noted, are shaped by individu- cues and models that suggest and guide conduct. These processes are not Newman et al. Foucault suggests achieved through some uniform wave of socially that individuals become subjected to the social driven change that propels each new generation of world through the discourses and discursive prac- practitioners, because the social processes are not tices of the social, primarily through language.


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Yet that strong or unambiguous. Instead, individuals worker subjectivities have particular relationships actively remake and refine these cultural practices to learning. The subjectivity of coal miners was as they confront work tasks and adopt new found to be constituted within a strong hegemonic technologies and requirements in doing so. At the heart of this Somerville, These work practices are process are changing environments, requirements handed down inter-generationally in mining com- and technologies that are products of evolving his- munities.

The mines as workplaces are described tory. However, other views jugation. A particular culture of masculine com- suggest that individuals act in shaping responses petitiveness has been characteristically cultivated to these changing circumstances that constitute in mining workplaces because of its relationship the vanguard of cultural transformation Leontyev, to production Somerville, However, mas- ; Rogoff, ; Valsiner, There are culine peer pressure supports unsafe work behav- examples of workers electing to participate in and iours, preventing workers from expressing transform practices because they are inconsistent problems and admitting mistakes or weakness.

The dramatic experi- While the social press for mine workers was ence of an aged care nurse, through a back injury, strongly supportive of hegemonic masculine work led her to focus upon improving work practices in practices, there were nevertheless some mine- that industry sector Somerville, She exer- workers who persisted in asserting their differ- cised energy and intentionality in her efforts to ence, either through natural inclination or through improve transform practice. Taking another a self-conscious process of transformation Billett example, in one aged care facility, the practices of and Somerville, In a sonal or proximal kind.

That is, the kind often mortuary that performs coronial autopsies, one referred to as teaching or guided learning. In counsellor succeeded in changing the processes of intentional teaching activities, this kind of interac- counselling the next of kin that transformed the tion is often directed to secure inter-subjectivity or operation and practice not only of the counsellors, shared understanding between a more-experienced but also other workers in the facility Billett et al. However, These have afforded professional standing all contributed to been conceptualised as habitus Bourdieu, his transforming the counselling activity in the or subjectification Foucault, Yet, it is these workplace.

These instances of changing practices forms of social suggestion that individuals rela- illuminate the possibilities for individuals to make tionally elect to appropriate, transform or ignore. They also have a cognitive legacy in the ing lives, it was found that they all experienced form of permanent or semi-permanent change in significant change in their working lives over a individuals, that is: learning.

Yet, beyond learning, period of about seven months Billett and Pavlova, these processes also constitute the process of Against what is often reported about remaking practice. In four of the five instances, the changes Anderson, J. That is, these changes Anderson, J. American provided the vehicle by which they could enact Psychologist, 48 1 : 35— Psychological Review, — The Psychological closely associated with their identity and values. Review, V 1 : 1— Of course, others associated with these participants Bartlett, F.

However, the Study. New York: Basic Books. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books. Leontyev identified this process of remak- Bernhardt, A. Institute on Education and the active engagement in and appropriation of partic- Economy Working Paper, 10 March He proposed Bhaskar, R. London: that: Routledge.

Bierema, L. Fenwick ed. Billett, S. Brisbane: Centre for Research into found that the key basis for directing their learn- Employment and Work. Griffith University. The response to this uniform initiative was vocational expertise, Learning and Instruction, 11 6 : diverse in its scope, attention and enactment. Even — Interdependencies at work, Studies in Continuing Education, All this suggests that rather than being wholly 23 1 : 19— The change Studies, 50 4 : — Perhaps as Rogoff tion in work.

Paper presented at the 11th Annual suggests, it is the engagement of individuals International conference on post-compulsory education in solving novel problems that are generated by and training: Enriching learning cultures, Gold Coast. Society, 12 2 : — Engestrom, Y. Engestrom and ness pedagogic practices, Journal of Vocational Education D. Middleton eds , Cognition and Communication at Work and Training, 55 2 : — Agency in young work, learning and the remaking of cultural practices, adult transitions in England and the New Germany.

Journal Studies in Continuing Education, 27 3 : — Bishop, J. Economics, 16, 19— Foucault, M. Hurley, trans. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Giddens, A. Cambridge: Bourdieu, P. New York: Polity Press. Cambridge University Press. Stanford: Stanford J.

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Cambridge: Polity Press. University Press. Brown, J. Bruner, being, Theory and Psychology, 5: — Oliven and P.

Publisher Description

Greenfield eds , Studies in Cognitive Hull, G. Hull ed. New York: Wiley. Malle, L.

Moses and on language, literacy and skills. New York: State University D. Foundations of Social Cognition. Chaiklin and Press. Lave, J. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge ability, in R.

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Sternberg ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Leontyev, A.