Link to the Centre for the Study of Education and Work

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Homepage



Research Teams


People and Partners 

Communications Area






WALL Resource Base


WALL Working Papers 


WALL 2004 Survey 




Case Studies


Other Publications 


Online Video Resources


NALL Bibliography


Members Access Area    
(Password Protected)



Speakers' Series

2005 Calendar


2003-2004 Calendar

2001-2004 Calendar (PDF)

WALL General
Annual Meetings

June 17-18-19, 2004

June 19-20, 2005

Book Launch
OISE/UT December 2003





WALL General Annual Meeting, June 17-19, 2004



Thursday, June 17, 2004 – 4:30-6:30 pm (public event)
OISE/UT Boardroom (12-199), 252 Bloor St. W.

"New Thinking about Learning & Work
in North America and Western Europe;
Implications for Workers"

Welcome: Jane Gaskell

With speakers: Elaine Bernard Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School & Harvard Trade Union Program; Bernd Overwien Technical University, Berlin; Veronica McGivney National Institute for Adult Continuing Education, UK; Winnie Ng Canadian Labour Congress.

Elaine 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 with unions.

Bernd 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 technology sector.

Veronica 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.

Winnie 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 only)

Friday, June 18

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

Chair: Monica Collins (Scotiabank)
Presenting commentary on Survey team: D’Arcy Martin (Labour backgroud) & Nancy Jackson (qualitative background)

Chair: Steven 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

Respondent (from survey team): Karen Myers

Reflections: Keith Forrester, Veronica McGivney, Stephen Billet

Saturday, June 19

Chair: Jorge Garcia-Orgales (USWA)

§ Organizational Change and Worker Learning in Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals (Paul Belanger)
: 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 Belanger
§ 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)
: Peter Sawchuk

Respondent (from survey team): David Livingstone

Introducing Disability Arts and Culture”

Presented by Kathryn Church & Catherine Frazee

Chair: 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 Jackson
§ Labour Education: Action Research from an Equality Perspective (Nancy Jackson & Winnie Ng)
Presenter: Lauren Posner

Respondent (from survey team): Pierre Doray


Elaine Bernard, Bernd Overwein, Newton Duarte

Next Steps & Closing Remarks
David Livingstone


WALL Annual General Meeting:
June 6-7, 2003
See photos from the meeting

What good an annual meeting? Much good!

The 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.


Themes: 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.

Overview 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 the meeting.
>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.

Teleconference 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 EndNote (6.0/7.0)

Agreed that all interviews will be analysed using QSR N6 (formerly known as NU*DIST).

Reporting to SSHRC
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.

Meeting Evaluations

Attendees 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 and work"

"Interrupting almost everything I believed in."

"Challenging our ideas for our theoretical framework; good methodological insights."

"Got through oodles of information and opportunities for exchange, respectfully."

"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, cross-disciplinary context."

" 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....

1 International research on work, learning and power.

1.1 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.

1.3 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 through work
Elaine Butler (University of South Australia) – learning through work
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 work

1.4 Scandinavian and Nordic inquiries into working life

2. Conceptions of learning through engagement in social practices (work)

2.1 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.

2.2 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.

2.3 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.

2.4 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 and learning.

2.5 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 particular purposes.

2.6 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.

2.7 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.

2.8 Interesting inquiry occurs in understanding the intersection between the need for workplace continuity and individual aspiration and direction.

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

Contributions of international partners for the research project

Policy 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 working life.

Increasingly, 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)

Working life policies of Nordic and Scandinavian countries a model, but reflect cultural practices that are remote from those in many other countries.

Sharing 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

Back to top




252 Bloor Street West, Office 12-254,
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6

Tel. 416.978.0015 Fax. 416.926.4751


Link to University Of Toronto








Requirement Matching


New Approaches
to Lifelong Learning

PLAR Home Page

Prior Learning
Assessment & Recognition




Recognition for Learning home page
 Recognition for Learning


 CAPLA Home Page
Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment