Negotiating Learning and Work: Clarifying workers' personal participative practices
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In recent years, workplace learning research has brought the person, the subject, of the worker to the centre of work learning theory in efforts to understand individuals' contributions to the social practice of vocational learning. A key term that emerges from this subject centred approach to learning theory is 'negotiation'. This term is often used to capture the interactivity of the vocational learner and the context of their participation as relational and interdependent (Billett 2008). This paper suggests that the term negotiation is insufficiently understood in sociocultural constructivist perspectives of work learning and needs to be elaborated more fully to support understandings of workers' contributions to their learning practices. Fundamental to this elaboration is the conception of vocational learners as negotiators who manage the control and conduct of their work participation through sets of values that are transacted as working and learning practices. These transactions may be viewed not so much as bargaining or deal making that bring worker and workplace together in agreement and collaboration. Rather, these transactions may be viewed as continuing processes of creating and discovering mutualities that unite worker and workplace as sites of personal development and work practice change. Understanding workers as negotiators who generate value for themselves and their work, enables their participation and learning to be seen as negotiated practice, emergent as both process and product of the self-managed transactions in which they engage. From an examination of qualitative data collected with a variety of workers engaged in work based VET programs, the paper seeks to explore how such understandings may offer ways of conceptualising workplace learning as a transactive process that realises worker and workplace as consonant. In this way the paper helps clarify how the personal participative practices of workers can be understood more fully within the subject centred approach to vocational learning.
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© 2010 AVETRA. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Use hypertext link for access to the publisher's website.
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