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In this connection it must also be mentioned that there are few concepts in the social sciences that have been used as inconsistently as that of skill (Vallas, 1990). Variations on this concept include worker skill, job skill, cognitive skill, non-cognitive skill, distributed skill, skill breadth versus skill depth and more. "Skill" is a multidimensional and heterogeneous concept. When social scientists aspire to statistically scrutinize the role of skills in the relationship between education and work, they need to define, operationalize and gauge such skills in ways that allow its use for the purpose of testing hypotheses. The first step in this direction is often the categorization of different kinds of skills. Dichotomous schemes are common - general versus particular skills, affective versus cognitive skills, advanced versus basic skills - but more intricate classifications are also accessible. Different research questions require different views of skills and determining which of these many classificatory methods is the greatest one is fundamentally a function of how well it helps scholars answer these questions (Spenner, 1983); (Diprete, 1988); (Attewell, 1987); (Frenkel, Korczynski, Shire, & Tam, 1999); (Kerckhoff, Raudenbush, & Glennie, 2001).
In this study we consider skill in its most inclusive sense where it would refer to any capacity to get things done. A little more elaboration on this definition should clarify what the author intends to convey through the word 'skill'.
To begin with, 'skill' is not likened to education. Treating one's level of schooling as well as the level of skill as the identical thing is conventional in labor economics and common among sociologists. Nonetheless, this practice really cannot be justified. Economists Ingram and Neumann argue quite bluntly that "education per se does not measure skills adequately,' (Ingram & Neumann, 1999) at the same time as Alan Kerckhoff (sociologist) and his colleagues demonstrated that one's level of skills and schooling are not only determined by different factors, but also lead to different labor market outcomes. (Kerckhoff, Raudenbush, & Glennie, 2001)
Perhaps it is best to think of skills as characteristics of individuals, and of other times to as traits of work tasks, jobs or even groups of workers. As Vallas observed, educational psychologists and human capital economists are inclined to view skills as something that workforces have, and at the same time sociologists view skills as inhering in jobs (Vallas, 1990). A fuller understanding of skills would recognize that they are embedded in what Stinchcombe has called the 'information processes' of organizations. Stinchcombe's definition of skill deftly shows their multi-layered nature:
"the capacity to routinize most of the activity that comes to a given work role in an uncertain environment (â€¦) skill is a repertoire of routines which the workers can do accurately and fast, as well as a set of selection principles among routines, such that the complex of routines and selections among them deals with most things that uncertainty brings to the worker. Thus we will expect to find skill when a great many different things must be done to produce the product or service but when each of those things has to be done in several different ways depending upon the situation" (Stinchcombe, 1990) end direct quote
This proposes that skills are obtained from explicit workers or groups of workers in specific work settings. Certainly some individuals are more 'skilled' than others, and some jobs demand more form their incumbents than do other jobs.
WBL - a diverse, widespread and amorphous phenomenon
The acknowledgment that learning happens inside the workplace and is necessary for the growth of working skills and knowledge is not new. Nonetheless, lately an awareness among researchers, employers, and policy makers as to what is entailed in learning as well as how it might be facilitated inside workplaces has been increased. Additionally, at present, there are numerous areas of research wherein learning at as well as through work are a central concern.
WBL frequently referred to, or one and the same with, problem-based, practice-based, out-of-school based learning - is so amorphous, diverse, widespread, adaptable and applicable in so many distinct places and situations, for so wide a number of needs and purposes and populations that it is virtually impossible to reach shared understandings, let alone a general framework - it defies characterization.
Stern and Sommerlad (1999), dispute that it has gained considerable importance because it sits at the intersection of new thinking concerning the nature of learning about novel forms of knowledge, about the changing nature of work and also about the modern business in a global economy. Reeve & Gallacher (1999) assert that in this context, workplace learning:
beginning direct quote"(â€¦ ) is seen as a flexible form of learning which enables employees to engage in the regular processes of up-dating and continuing professional development which have been increasingly emphasised. Moreover, insofar as the learning is work-based it is also seen as facilitating forms of learning, and types of knowledge which are of particular relevance to the work in which the learners are engaged (pp. 125-6).
Workplace Learning - an elusive concept
The processes of change as described above have also meant that 'workplace learning' has itself acquired a broad variety of different meanings. There is no singular definition or one unified approach to what 'workplace learning' is, what it should be, or who it is/should be for.
Boud (1998) argues that, 'workplace learning is a site of intersecting interests, contested ideas,
multiple forms of writing and rapidly evolving practice' (p.11). This is expounded by Candy and Matthews (1998), who state how:
"Coming from a range of fields of study (adult education, higher education, cultural anthropology, organisational theory, innovation studies, industrial economics, management studies, vocational education, etc.), a variety of theoretical perspectives (behaviourism, interpretivism and criticaltheory), different points of view (the manager, the learner/worker, the development practitioner), various contexts or environments (manufacturing/production-based industries, knowledge- or service-based organisations, the public sector, universities, professional practice etc.), and using every imaginable methodology (from surveys and interviews, to diaries and participantobservation) they have generated a bewildering array of models" (p. 15). End direct quote
This uncommon degree of eclecticism has created what Stern and Sommerlad (1999) explain as an 'elasticity' to the phrase 'workplace learning', even if they dispute that diverse understandings can however still be determined and categorized. They propose that this could be founded on the degree at which 'learning' and 'work' are divided, which they dispute could be captured within three expansive approaches: the workplace as a place for learning; the workplace as a learning environment; in addition, working and learning as inextricably connected (p. 2). The first approach engages the spatial division of learning from the work, in which learning activities, usually in the structure of 'in-company training' takes place 'off-the- job' as well as outside of the direct working environment. The second approach consists of planned learning and is organized however takes place inside the working environment and is largely 'on the job'. The third approach is portrayed by the idea of 'continuous learning' and Zuboff's (1988) affirmation that 'learning is the new form of labour' (cited in Stern and Sommerlad, 1999, p. 2). In this approach, there is a structured workplace to take full advantage of the processes of learning through which employees are taught how to become learners and are taught skills associated to their own occupations and those of other workers.
Approaches to learning - opposing views
Learning is a enormously complex, vast, multi-dimensional phenomenon, that is both an activity or process and an outcome. It is a ubiquitous and ongoing process that is truly indispensable to human and non-human existence, being almost as important for survival as drinking, eating or breathing. There are numerous forms, models and approaches to learning and because of the central role it plays in all dimensions of life, the it also the object of study - from differing angles - of a wide range of disciplinary fields that span from the natural sciences, too the humanities and social sciences. We will briefly take a closer look at how the process of human learning in formal and informal fashion and settings may lead to significantly distinct outcomes. In the field of education, the long dominant standard paradigm of learning & learning as acquisition is seriouslyƒŸMarc? Plz adjust as this in green doesn't make sense to me and increasingly challenged by the emerging paradigm of learning which attributes far greater importance to WBL.
Workplace learning theories in addition to perceptions take place through and center upon that which Beckett and Hager (2002), and Hager (2004a), refer to as two diverse 'paradigms' of learning, in which each one has diverse epistemological beliefs and assumptions regarding knowledge and knowing. Formal learning that is found inside educational institutions is defined as working throughout a 'standard paradigm of learning' which, as well as assuming didactic teaching methods (which position the learner as the relevant 'object' to be 'taught')ƒŸMarc this in green is unclear, plz adjust from your end, has three distinctive characteristics - focus on mind, interiority and transparency. First of all, 'the basic image for understanding learning is of an individual mind steadily being stocked with ideas' (Hager, 2004a, p. 243). Second of all, mental life is measured as 'interior' to persons, where learning is consequently perceived to engage 'a change in the contents of an individual mind, i.e. a change in beliefs' (ibid). Third, there is a supposition of a transparency of learning, in which the notion that if something is really learned it could be made explicit (ibid, p. 244). Supporting these three main characteristics is consequently an epistemological assumption and/or belief that knowledge is something that exists independently of the knower but is that which the knower can obtain, own, internalize, and exhibit (Sfard, 1998, p.5).
Hager (2004a) remarks that the customary paradigm of learning assumes abstract propositional, context dependent and transparent knowledge to be the best and most wanted structure of learning, in which learning that happens outside of educational institutions is positioned as its inferior 'other'. Thus, 'concrete' skills learning, context dependent learning and also tacit structures of knowledge and learning - in other words, those structures of learning and knowledge that are typically found within the workplace - are 'consigned to second-rate status' (ibid, p. 244).
Emerging paradigm of learning
Individual learning theorists in the workplace who implement various 'socially' informed perspectives as it pertains to learning and/or who are apprehensive with informal learning processes are, conversely, contributing towards what Hager (2004a) terms an 'emerging paradigm of learning'. Hager disputes that the paradigm ought to be phrased as 'emerging' because, 'though a diverse range of critical writings on education can be seen as pointing to this new paradigm, it is still a long way from gaining wide recognition and support characteristic of an established paradigm' (ibid, p. 246). The issue of the diversity of writings may also, however, have some additional significance here. For instance, while many commentators might place themselves as texting from a 'social' standpoint of learning, this does not mean that it constitutes a unified or near-unified approach. As discussed earlier, work place learning literature encompasses a variety of different disciplinary perspectives and within these, different meanings and perceptions of the 'social' and relationships among social structure, agency and culture are abound. As such, the idea that a 'paradigm' is emerging may be somewhat problematic.
The point of view within what Hager deems as the 'emerging paradigm', however, unlike the 'standard paradigm of learning', do tend to conceptualise knowledge differently. They view it as fluid, in other words, produced and continually reconstructed through the relationships and interactions among persons, rather than as an entity that is attained, internalised and owned. As Sfard (1998) views, rather than speaking of 'knowledge':
begin direct quote "The terms that imply the existence of some permanent entities have been replaced with the noun "knowing", which indicates action. This seemingly minor linguistic modification marks a remarkable foundational shift â€¦ The talkabout states has been replaced with attention to activities. In the image of learning that emerges from this linguistic turn, the permanence of having gives way to the constant flux of doing" (p. 6, emphasis in original) end direct quote
Hence, learning is similarly viewed as consisting of action, 'doing', and active engagement. This is something that is produced and stimulated through social interaction and which is also contextual; specifically, through learning, the shape of individuals and transformation of both themselves and the interact ional/social environments inside their workplace. From this viewpoint, the suitable unit of analysis is social/discursive relations between people rather than the isolated 'individual'.
Formal & informal learning - overlapping realities
As discussed prior, the theory of workplace learning has acquired a broad array of meanings. Formal learning is given the meaning of structured learning that takes place 'off-the-job' as well as outside the workplace, normally in classroom-based formal educational settings (Marsick and Watkins, 1990; 2001). It is also, as discussed above, conceptualised as a 'standard paradigm' of learning: a form of learning within traditional 'educational' pedagogical frameworks, based on didactic interaction (Beckett and Hager, 2002; Hager, 2004a, 2004b). Eraut (2000) outlines how formal learning has the following characteristics:
a prescribed learning framework
an organised learning event or package
the presence of a selected teacher or trainer
the award of a qualification or credit
the external specification of outcomes (p. 114)
Informal learning, as indicated by Colley et al (2002), is largely apt to be 'defined in relation to what it is not - formal' (p.5) and, comparable with wider disputes regarding workplace learning as such, there are problems with definitions: numerous texts utilize one or more of the expressions without any clear definition. In a debatable even larger number, topics involved are either addressed or assumed, but devoid of the explicit use of the terms at all. A lesser, but still considerable and rising body of writing places definitions of one or more of the terms concerned. Inside that third portion of literature, there is little accord regarding how such terms should be bounded, defined, or used. There is frequently significant overlap, but also significant disagreement. (p.5)
The expression 'informal learning' can, though, be conceptualised in accordance with four broad
â€¢ Context: learning that takes place exterior of formal educational classroom based settings
â€¢ Cognisance: intentional/incidental learning
â€¢ Experiential: practice and judgment
â€¢ Relationship: learning in the course of 'sitting next to Nellie', mentoring, team working
The above four organising principles as it pertains to informal learning are viewed as central features of work as a practice, the workplace as an environment, and workforce/individual development. 'Informal learning' is likely, consequently, to be considered as not only crucial to understand and facilitate, but as a more major, effective and accordingly 'superior' structure of learning to formal learning as a classroom-based one (Colley et al, 2002; Hager, 2004a).
Dale and Bell (1999) define informal learning as that: begin direct quote" (â€¦) which takes place in the work context, relates to an individual's performance of their job and/or their employability, and which is not formally organised into a programme or curriculum by the employer. It may be recognised by the different parties involved, and it may or may not be specifically encouraged. (p. 1) Marc? Where does the above quote end?
Marsick and Watkins (1990; 2001), however, offer a looser definition. They state that informal learning will quote'take place wherever people have the need, motivation, and opportunity for learning' (2001, p.28) and that it 'is usually intentional but not highly structured [and] includes self directed learning, networking, coaching, mentoring, and performance planning that includes opportunities to review learning needs' end quote (pp. 25-6). Drawing on an evaluation of numerous studies of informal learning, it is characterized as follows:
It is integrated with daily routines.
It is set off by an external or internal jerk.
It is not highly conscious.
It is haphazard and influenced by chance.
It is an inductive procedure of action and reflection.
It is connected to learning of others (citation in Marsick and Watkins, 2001, p. 28).
Formal/Informal learning: is it possible to draw a line?
As noted already, there is a tendency in the second broad category of theories of workplace learning to reconceptualise the notion of learning itself. The tendency is congruent with trends within the mainstream of educational theorizing in which as Schoenfeld (1999) noted begin quote "(...)the very definition of learning is contested, and that assumptions that people make regarding its nature and where it takes place also vary widely" (p. 6) . end quote
Is the notion of a universal theory of learning realistic? As per Winch quote "(â€¦)the possibility of giving a scientific or even a systematic account of human learning is (â€¦) mistaken" (1998, p. 2). His argument is that there are many and diverse cases of learning, each subject to "constraints in a variety of contexts and cultures" end quote which prohibits them from getting treated in a common way (1998, p. 85). Winch here is thinking of "contexts and cultures" in the sense of the micro level. Marc? Where does the next direct quote here begin? Thus while it may be the case that, e.g., the majority of workplaces share a common macro context (e.g., part of a capitalist economy), they each have unique and particular contextual and cultural features at the micro level. Winch concludes that " ƒŸmarc here's ending quotes from something before (â€¦) grand theories of learning (â€¦) are underpinned (â€¦)invariably (â€¦) by faulty epistemological premises" (Winch, 1998, p. 183).
The ubiquity of informal learning is also generally recognised by other writers in the field, including those who take on a social rather than a psychological perspective (see, inter alia, Colley et al, 2002, Hager, 2004a, 2004b). However, this tends to be seen as presenting a severe challenge to the notion that there can and should be a distinction between formal and informal learning. In a particular study of non-formal, formal, and informal learning, Colley et al (2002) observed data drawn from several broad research arenas which covered: workplace learning as it pertains to school teachers and learning within further education; community education and learning; and mentoring in the contexts of business and working with excluded young people. They state that in each arena informal learning was exposed to be major in formal settings and vice versa, and that the data recommended quote 'that there are few, if any, learning situations where either informal or formal elements are completely absent' (p. 5). End quote
Billett (1999; 2002) similarly disputes making a distinction involving formal and informal learning. On the other hand, unlike several of those who affirm the superiority of informal learning as both a 'practice' and an emerging new learning 'paradigm' (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Beckett and Hager, 2002; Hager, 2004a, 2004b), is principally concerned to shift discussions regarding learning, as it pertains to the workplace, out of an 'informal learning' framework. Billett's oppositions to the association in regard to informal learning are twofold. First, he disputes that, in spite of attempts to dispute otherwise, informal learning positions workplace learning as 'ad hoc' and therefore puts it as inferior regarding the learning processes established within formal educational organizations (Billett, 2002, p. 58). This concern, as discussed above, can be seen to be rooted in the problem of how, against the standard paradigm of learning, additional structures of learning are accorded less status and significance. Conversely, rather than try to overcome this situation through claims, such as those above, of the superiority as it pertains to informal learning, in his second opposition, Billett claims that workplaces are actually greatly controlled environments for learning:
As with educational organizations, as it pertains to workplaces, there are objectives for work practice, and structured goal directed activities, which are central to continuity in an organizational way, and judgments as well as interactions about presentation, which are shaped to those ends too. Therefore describing learning through work as being "informal" is incorrect (ibid, p. 56).
Fuller and Unwin (2003) suggest that formal and informal learning not only are inclined to take place in conjunction with one another, as Colley et al (2002) argue, but also that fundamentals of formal learning are capable of and do have particular importance or worth in their own right.
WBL - The flexibility discourse and the hidden agenda
Whilst many thinkers and, in particular, opinion and policy makers, tend to view learning within the workplace positively, some critical researchers and other experts in the field have called attention to pitfalls and drawbacks in relation to its processes and learning outcomes. On a realistic level and mostly from an organisation-centred focus, Dale and Bell (1999) point out that:
It might be too closely based so the worker only learns a fraction of a task or superficial expertise that which may not be transferable;
It may be unconscious and not be recognised. This does not make one confident or lead to growth;
It is not simple to accredit or utilize for formal qualifications;
The worker might learn bad practices or the incorrect lessons (p.4).
From an employee-centered and a more expansive social focus, others have argued that the emphasis on, and concern with informal learning inside the workplace neglects and/or obscures a variety of problematic issues. Fuller et al (2003) draws interest to the perspective in which an over-valuing pertaining to informal learning might lead to fewer opportunities for employees to participate in formal 'off-the job' training (p. 18). As well as indicating that this could reduce the possibilities for expansive participation (Fuller and Unwin, 2003), it too brings up the subject of knowledge control within the workplace. This prompts such questions as, what counts as legitimate knowledge, who defines it, and for whose benefits will such knowledge serve that are increasingly being addressed and discussed (see, inter alios, Blackler, 1995; Spencer, 2001).
Several authors draw focus to how informal learning directs itself to a variety of forms of job strengthening that obscured through cultures pertaining to the workplace, discourses of flexibility, and the new employee subjectivities, which are produced through them (Du Gay, 1996; Edwards, 1998; Solomon, 1999; Usher and Solomon, 1999; Garrick and Usher, 2000). They dispute that informal learning procedures and workplace cultures consist of control, surveillance, and govern mentality that eventually shape the identities of employees and subjectivities in conducts, which coincide with the needs and interests of organisations. This dispute is mostly built upon Foucault's (1995) theory of regulatory and disciplinary power in which power is not applied from above (e.g. from the manager or employer) however from within individuals themselves, a form of self-surveillance which is conditioned through the discourses that surround them.
The ways through which these relations and influences are played out through informal learning processes can be challenging on the foundation that they put varying constraints upon individual workers. Fenwick (2001) disputes, for instance, that the lives of workers are apt to be 'a human resource development project' where:
The lessening of identity options to a prescriptive and powerful imperative for all of the workforce [to become] a impulsive enterprising self disregards the diverse capabilities and opportunities of diverse individuals to thrive in such a system (p. 12).
Authors concerned with gender inequalities also take up this issue. Probert (1999) and Bierema (2001) dispute that for adult females there are obstacles to, and restrictions pertaining to learning as a result due to workplace discourses and structures to which men are privileged. The 'hidden curriculum' that these create not only disadvantages women but also reinforces and perpetuates gendered stereotypes, which ultimately curtail the professional and personal development of both sexes. Cutting across gender inequalities are further inequalities based on class and ethnicity. As Colley et al (2002) observe, these power relations and inequalities that underpin and are played out through them are highly significant:
Research demonstrates that sites pertaining to informal learning, like the workplace, are also profoundly unequal, with those persons higher up on the management hierarchy and status receiving better and more opportunities for learning than those towards the bottom, who were more likely to be female, working class or, at least in western countries, of non-white descent' ƒŸMarc is there another apostrophe in this paragraph that I paraphrased until I saw this; if this whole paragraph is a direct quote then put it back the way it was plz (p. 8).
These issues are viewed by many as significant areas of enquiry needing investigation in order for informal learning to be egalitarian both in practice and conceptually.
The liberal credence in salvation demonstrated by continually developing knowledge and a knowledgeable workforce has cultivated a vision of the post-Fordist workplace. At this juncture, in accordance with certain management enthusiasts, persons work in self-directed teams rather than command-and-control hierarchies. Their work is through the motivation of mission, values, and meaning, rather than by fear or incentives, and the workplace is changed from grinding assembly lines to creative and empowering communities of learning. But reviewers or opponents have charged that this rose-colored democratic vision frequently obscures unchanged power structures as well as divisions of labor. Such structures eventually restrict the learning of workers as well as actions and connect their hearts and souls to the anxieties of shareholders (Fenwick, 1997). The much-acknowledged vital reflection seldom is permitted to infiltrate organizational values. Plus in the midst of the popular hype of the current workplace as an innovative center for learning alongside the concomitant thrust for workers' constant training and development, Livingstone (Chapter Two, this volume) and others have shown mass underemployment: many of the skills of workers and knowledge already extremely exceed job opportunity and the ability of employing organizations to utilize them. Even so, people are forced to adapt, learn, and to join together their private passion and lives with their work.
'Flexibility' has become a main metaphor potently vivifying a variety of contemporary life discourses. As capital develops into a more globalised entity and national economies are progressively incorporated globally, flexibility becomes a key aim in, and a means of, increasing and maintaining economic competitiveness. Flexibility is an overriding theme amid descriptions of the modern workplace. Flexible workers (adaptive, responsive, transferable), flexible structures (fluid, insecure, changing markets, and adaptive to consumer demand), flexible pay (progressively more contractual), and thus flexible learning are understood to ensure organizational competitiveness. Edwards (1998) illustrates how the naturalization of flexibility has an effect on both a concealed curriculum of work as well as the individual subjectivities created in workplaces.
Constant change is something that workers are expected to accept as a given. They are also expected to relinquish any expectation of organizational loyalty and stable employment, and take for granted personal responsibility as it pertains to adapting to changing needs of organizations pertaining to skills and labor. The learning of workers has been legitimated as a basis for organizational health, allegedly initiating a wide assortment of benefits for the workforce: productivity and personal growth, purpose and fulfillment, meaningful or significant relationships, creativity, even spiritual growth and happiness. The straight capitalist employer-employee relationship of work exchanged for revenue has been altered and blurred by what is frequently referred to as a learning focus.
Traditional knowledge standards and academics are increasingly viewed as inflexible,
challenged and dislodge by added flexible contents and methods of learning regarded as more harmonious with the flexibility in the procedures as it applies to labour, products, markets, and patterns of consumption that characterise post-Fordist processes of flexible capital accumulation. All of this has added to hastening the breakdown of the university's domination of knowledge legitimating and to a growing consciousness that the university is no more the sole or principal site through which 'valid' learning takes place.
The notion of worker empowerment, once a uniting cry for the transformation of workplaces into democratic learning neighborhoods, has become an aim of substantial criticism. Many speculate just how democratic an organization can imagine it to be when it controls and fragments workers with knowledge as a commodity, and inhabits their minds and hearts as capital resources (Baptiste, 2001; Hart, 1993; Martin, 1999; Schied et al., 2001; Welton,