Co-participation at work: Learning through work and throughout working lives
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This paper conceptualises bases for learning or coming to know in workplaces. These bases comprise interdependencies between the way access to workplace activities and guidance is afforded, on the one hand, and how workers elect to engage with what is afforded to them on the other. These reciprocal bases for thinking, acting and learning (knowing) are referred to as co-participation at work (Billett 2001a). The key contributions that workplaces make to workers' learning comprise learners' access to workplace activities and guidance. However, access to these contributions is not equally available. How they are distributed and accessed is shaped by the degree by which the workplace invites individuals to participate in and learn from these experiences. In particular, how access to prized knowledge is distributed and to whom reflects workplace norms and practices. Yet, beyond what the workplace affords, how individuals construe the invitational qualities of what is afforded and elect to engage with work activities also shapes what they learn. Recent accounts emphasising relations between mind and social practice, such as those of Valsiner (1994) Valsiner and Van de Veer (2000), Wertsch (1991, 1998), Cole (1998) and (Lave 1991), rightfully propose interdependencies or degree of relatedness between individuals' thinking, acting and learning, and social practices and sources. These and other accounts (e.g. Cobb 1998; Scribner 1997b; Valsiner 1992) also acknowledge the complexity of the interdependencies between individuals' acting and social practice, and the influence upon cognition. A salient premise here is that engagement in work and what is co-constructed through work is negotiated reciprocally between the evolving social practice of the workplace and individuals' ongoing development founded in their ontogeneses. Work practice, as instances of social practices, are constituted by yet constantly being transformed through historical, cultural and situational lines of development (e.g. Scribner 1985; Cole 1998). Moreover, as workplaces are contested environments, participation and knowing are subject to the norms and practices that shape the affordances extended to workers or cohorts of individual workers and, in turn, what they construe as the workplace's invitational qualities. Understanding participation in and learning at work illuminates relations between social and cognitive contributions to adult development throughout working lives.
Studies in the Education of Adults
© 2004 The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education http://www.niace.org.uk