WALL General Annual Meeting,
June 17-19, 2004
June 17, 2004 – 4:30-6:30 pm (public event)
OISE/UT Boardroom (12-199), 252 Bloor St. W.
Thinking about Learning & Work
in North America and Western Europe;
Implications for Workers"
speakers: Elaine Bernard
Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School & Harvard
Trade Union Program;
Overwien Technical University, Berlin; Veronica
McGivney National Institute for Adult Continuing Education,
UK; Winnie Ng Canadian Labour Congress.
Bernard is a widely published writer, the director of North America’s
oldest university-based program for developing labour leadership,
and an active promoter of strategic planning and case method work
Overwien is one of the leading German researchers on informal
learning in workplaces. He has recently completed a major study
of new forms of learning and work re-organization in the information
McGivney is principal researcher at NIACE. She has authored some
of the most important recent studies in the UK on participation
in adult education by workers, especially women and older workers.
Ng is the Ontario regional director for the CLC, a long-time community
and political activist and a leading advocate on human rights
and anti-racist change within Canada’s labour movement.
Session chaired by Larry Hubich
President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
Followed by wine & cheese reception
CLOSED SEGMENT (WALL Researchers
Keith Forrester (U of Leeds, UK), Stephen Billet (Griffith U,
Australia), Elaine Bernard (Harvard Trade Union Program/HTUP),
Bernd Overwein (U of Berlin), Veronica McGivney (National Institute
of Adult Continuing Education/NIACE),
Newton Duarte (U of Sao Paulo, Brazil/UNESP)
(David Livingstone, Pierre Doray,
John Myles/Karen Myers and Doug Hart)
Monica Collins (Scotiabank)
Presenting commentary on Survey team: D’Arcy
Martin (Labour backgroud) & Nancy Jackson (qualitative background)
UNPAID WORK/TRANSITION FOCUS
Jordan (McGill University)
§ Housework and Care Work: Sites for Lifelong Learning
(Margrit Eichler & Ann Mathews)
Presenter: Daniel Schugurensky
§ The Informal Learning of Volunteer Workers
(Daniel Schugurensky) Presenter: Margrit Eichler
§ The School-to-Work Youth Transition Process
(Alison Taylor) Presenter: Paul Belanger
§ Critical Transitions Between Work and Learning
Projects throughout the Life Course (Pierre Doray &
Paul Belanger) Presenter: Alison Taylor
(from survey team): Karen Myers
Keith Forrester, Veronica McGivney, Stephen Billet
Chair: Jorge Garcia-Orgales (USWA)
Organizational Change and Worker Learning in Biotechnology
and Pharmaceuticals (Paul Belanger)
Presenter: Harry Smaller
§ The Effects of Changing Working Conditions and
Government Policy on Canadian Teachers Formal and Informal Learning
Practices (Harry Smaller & Rosemary Clark ) Presenter:Paul
§ Technological Change and Worker Learning in the
Public Sector (Peter Sawchuk) Presenters: Anil
Verma and Sara Mann
§ Skill Acquisition and Labour Market Experience
of At Risk Workers in Light Manufacturing and Nursing Homes
(Anil Verma, Jorge Garcia-Orgales & Sara Mann)
Presenter: Peter Sawchuk
(from survey team): David Livingstone
Introducing Disability Arts and Culture”
Presented by Kathryn Church & Catherine Frazee
AT-RISK WORKER FOCUS
Rosemary Clark (OSSTF)
Women's Alternative and Informal Learning Pathways to
Jobs in Information Technology (Shauna Butterwick &
Jen Liptrot) Presenters: Kathryn Church & Tracy Luciani
§ Doing Disability at the Bank: Discovering the Work
and Informal Learning/Teaching Done by Disabled Bank Employees
(Kathryn Church, Melanie Panitch, Catherine Frazee & Tracy
Luciani) Presenters: Shauna Butterwick and Jen Liptrot
§ Immigrant Workers Learning to Labour in Canada:
Rights and organizing Strategies (Eric Shragge, Steven
Jordan, Jill Hanley & Tess Tesalona) Presenter: Nancy
§ Labour Education: Action Research from an Equality
Perspective (Nancy Jackson & Winnie Ng)
Presenter: Lauren Posner
(from survey team): Pierre Doray
Elaine Bernard, Bernd Overwein, Newton Duarte
Steps & Closing Remarks
Annual General Meeting:
June 6-7, 2003
from the meeting
good an annual meeting? Much good!
WALL network investigators meeting June 6-7 of 2003 represented
a vital checkpoint along the road for the very diversified group.
Open discussion between investigators representing each of the
12 case study groups and the two national survey groups, as well
as community partners, research assistants, union representatives
and international advisors, lead to the development of approaches
and visions that could be shared and would nurture the project’s
direction. There was a fertile dynamic that enabled the testing
and challenging of everyday conceptions and assumptions, and allowed
the substance of the case study groups to nurture and speak to
the broader direction. Opinions from non-Canadian experts also
served as a beacon.
comments in the working groups
>Populations… Some working groups could identify the
populations to be covered by case study projects more easily than
others. Some populations would identify themselves, and not be
established beforehand. The delineation of populations of the
case studies should not be a limitation on inquiry.
>Learning… There are diverse opinions about definitions
of learning, especially informal learning by learners in the labour
force. The teams will use a variety of modes of learning in the
work on their projects. An open concept of the work learning relationship
is needed to enlarge and enrich the research.
>Work and power structures... Direct observation is difficult
or impossible as power structures are invisible and change, and
findings will be incomplete.
of the group discussions
>The Survey… To go into the field mid-July. All suggestions
for design and drafting to be provided as soon as possible during
>Design…Design of questions discussed up to Section 6.
Survey Group (David, Doug, Susan, Milosh, Ken) to meet next week
to reflect on and incorporate suggestions.
between Stephen Billet and Keith Forrester
Main points... International research on work and learning extensive,
but diverse and fragmented. Multi-disciplinary research needed.
Theoretical work needed to clarify concepts of relationship between
learning and social aspects of work, and to bring out features
common to different forms. ( See notes sent by Billet--below)
>A bibliography on learning and work is being designed and
compiled by Milosh and Susan, and will be put on the web site.
>Agreed that all case studies will produce references using
Agreed that all interviews will be analysed using QSR N6 (formerly
known as NU*DIST).
Midterm review… Findings will be shared as work progresses.
This will be needed for the mid-term project report to SSHRC in
the spring of 2004. Groups should plan to provide material to
project Coordinators (Ilda & Antonella) for the midterm review.
responded to a questionnaire. Here are some of their remarks:
"Very successful in building dialogue. Better sense of possibilities
for cross-study collaboration. Relieves the silo effect of survey
versus everyone else."
"An incredible appreciation for people working on learning
"Interrupting almost everything I believed in."
"Challenging our ideas for our theoretical framework; good
"Got through oodles of information and opportunities for
"To understand that the research process is not perfect and
there are fundamental flaws and differences that are a part of
the research process."
"Methodological and conceptual links between projects; connections
between survey and case studies."
"Social aspect important; got to know people (esp. important
for out-of-towners); stimulate thinking about particular projects
in relation to overall project."
“Get an idea of other projects & see other directions
in which people are taking some 'learning concepts'; realized
the emphasis on the more political and 'socially involved' nature
of these projects, which is heartening!"
"…many laughs too; great food."
"Interesting - Well facilitated! Good food, opportunity for
community partners to learn about overall project; some concrete
help for our project."
"More complete understanding of all case studies."
"How great it is to be able to bring disability/do disability
not ghettoized with other ‘disabled’ but in a critical,
" Oh, and the stretch breaks--and great facilitation!"
"Great having students, labour & community reps. Hopefully
even more next time!"
"A feeling for everyone involved, where my alliances are,
where I can contribute; a nice overall positive feeling of this
group as a learning group (and) the responsibilities we bear."
WALL Teleconference - June 7, 2003, (9 a.m. in Toronto, midnight
in Nathan, Australia)
Notes of Stephen
Billett, Griffith University....
International research on work, learning and power.
These topic headings themselves denote some of the difficulty
in understanding the scope of international research in this area.
That is, it is divided by disciplinary focus (i.e. learning --
psychology; power -- sociology) yet these topics warrant a multi-disciplinary
approach or one able to tolerate a multi disciplinary mode of
inquiry. Perhaps this is why both sociologists and psychologist
look to anthropological accounts (e.g. Lave, Darrah).
1.2 For instance, the two key journals that focus on work both
have a sociological orientation, that will not tolerate inquiry
that has a psychological foundation, for instance. So, is difficult
to contribute to locate and contribute to a specialist journal
on work using psychological accounts of work requirements and
interactions. Instead, these accounts have to be published in
journals whose focus is on lifelong learning or adults learning.
Inquiry currently being undertaken in Australia
Margaret Somerville (University of New England) – notions
of identity and work, work and bodies
Nicky Solomon (University of Technology, Sydney) gender and learning
Elaine Butler (University of South Australia) – learning
David Beckett (University of Melbourne) and Paul Hager (UTS) –
philosophic accounts of learning through work.
Stephen Billett (Griffith University) – co-participation
at work: reciprocal processes of participating and learning through
Scandinavian and Nordic inquiries into working life
Conceptions of learning through engagement in social practices
There seems to be little difference in the cognitive processes
of thinking, acting, learning and transfer that are often referred
to quite separately. They are all underpinned by the deployment
of cognitive functions and some change (i.e. learning) that arises
from the use. So, more than simply engaging in conscious sort
of action, there is a legacy from that action. Much is probably
associated with refining and honing what is already known by individuals.
This is important learning, nevertheless, as it permits a more
informed and certain engagement with the world. It also permits
conscious thought to be exercised on those parts of the tasks
that are novel. However, new tasks or tasks that are presented
in novel ways or have components which are novel bring about cognitive
change which can be equated to new learning.
This consideration seems important to appreciate the role of experiences
upon learning. Certainly, it serves to separate the nexus between
teaching or instruction and learning. Also, it questions the privileging
of what happens in education situations as being associated with
rich learning whereas other environments are presumed to be generative
of concrete learning. Instead, it suggests that the kind of the
experiences which individuals have is an important premise for
considering how learning might proceed, the likelihood of it being
rich and how best to organise learning experiences.
A useful way to consider learning is as participation in social
practice (Rogoff) or as through practice (Lave). That is, learning
is about engaging consciously in the social world and learning
from it. Through engagement in activities and tasks and through
interactions with social partners and artefacts, individuals deploy
their cognitive attributes and thereby interact with historically,
culturally and situationally derived knowledge which will transform
those attributes in some way.
In this vein, it seems important to critique terms such as informal
learning, as they might apply to paid or unpaid work. There at
least three problems with using the term informal learning. Firstly,
describing something by what it is not, is not always helpful.
Secondly, learning through engagement in social practices such
as work activities or those in unpaid work at home or in the community
is not without structure, organisation, cultural and social expectations,
and bases for relationships between the social practices in which
individuals participate and the opportunities that are afforded
for them to learn. Far from being without formality, structure
organisation workplaces and homework are highly structured environments
in which individuals participate and learn. This structuring of
activities distributes opportunities (i.e who is permitted to
engage in routine tasks, in novel activities, who is assisted,
who is told to “go figure”). But baldy, social practices
albeit those of the classroom, home or workplace are subject to
structures that shape participation and learning. Thirdly, describing
learning or learning environments as being either formal or informal
privileges social (situational) agency while denying the agency
of individuals. It seems implausible to suggest an approach to
learning which denies to the learner a role in the process. To
do so, would take us back to behavioural accounts of human cognition
The point in critiquing individuals engagement in workplaces and
other forms of social practice as informal is to provide a stronger
conceptual foundation to understand how individuals participate
and the prospects arising for learning from that participation.
For instance, those able to engage in new tasks and with informed
social partners are more likely to have greater access to new
learning opportunities than those who are restricted to routine
tasks and denied interaction with more informed partners. In particular,
workplaces are highly contested environments in which opportunities
to participate, and therefore learn are distributed on a range
of premises associated with the individuals gender, race, ethnicity,
affiliations, standing and so on. The degree by which the workplace
(or other forms of social practice) afford opportunities to learners
are not benign, they are intentional and often directed towards
Those purposes or intentions (social agency) most likely will
be directed by the standing and continuity of the workplace or
particular interests within it. It is about the continuity (e.g.
survival, enhancement) or particular interests. Whether it is
full-time workers protecting their interests by excluding part-time
workers, old-timers isolating newcomers in order to avoided displacement,
workplace cliques excluding individuals, union members supporting
their own affiliates or management seeking to maintain the control
of the workplace, the workplace distributes opportunities in order
to sustain particular interests. These might usefully thought
of as the importance of the workplace; its invitational qualities.
However, individual agency also plays a role. Individuals are
selective in how they engage and what they learn from that engagement.
So we need to consider the relationship between what is afforded
by the workplace and how individuals elect to engage in it. Therefore,
in considering learning in social practice such as workplaces
it’s important to consider both the cognitive and the social
experience as it is manifested in social and individual agency.
Interesting inquiry occurs in understanding the intersection between
the need for workplace continuity and individual aspiration and
3 Partnerships in research
Understanding the range of discourses, interests and concerns
of the parties
What’s in it for them
Access to informants
Confidentiality - confidence
Transforming environments, contacts, commitments – But that
is the essence of working organisations
of international partners for the research project
context of work and learning
As authors such as Keith Forrester have argued, the concept of
lifelong learning has become transformed in the current: policy
context from a consideration of learning goals associated cultural
enrichment to a focus on maintaining the currency of skills throughout
the onus is on the individual as traditional relations between
employers and employees appear to be breaking down (e.g. increasingly
contingent work force, decline of union representation)
life policies of Nordic and Scandinavian countries a model, but
reflect cultural practices that are remote from those in many
information outside the academic community
Obligation to communicate in ways that that are comprehensible
by those who have informed
On-going interaction with those in the field
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