This multi-disciplinary project aims to contribute to the enhancement of teaching and learning in the workplace in both the public and private sectors. It seeks to break new theoretical and methodological ground through an integrated examination of the organisational context and the processes of individual/group teaching and learning at work. The project will focus on the ways in which the features of the organisational context interact with these processes and with knowledge and skill formation in general. It will assess the implications for workplace learning opportunities for employees at all levels. In particular, it will investigate the hypothesis that workplaces which exhibit high involvement characteristics and 'expansive' learning environments provide employees with greater opportunities to engage in and attain new skills and knowledge through learning at work than would be the case for employees in low involvement ('restrictive') workplaces.
The project will combine qualitative and quantitative techniques in a multi-layered approach to data collection. Crucially, organisational level data will be triangulated with the workplace learning experiences and perceptions of employees. The research will be conducted in a wide range of public and private sector organisations covering different workplace sizes in a variety of industries. In keeping with its collaborative and transformative approach, the project seeks to:
- improve the process of and learning outcomes from workplace learning in the case study organisations;
- influence and inform the practitioner and policy-making communities in the field of workforce development.
The project will address and contribute to the ESRC TLRP Phase III core research themes by seeking answers to the following key questions:
- what are the contextual features of the workplace which affect employees' opportunities to learn and share their skills and knowledge, and their experience of learning at work?
- what is the relationship between 'formal' and 'informal' teaching and learning processes?
- what effect do these processes have on learning at work?
- what features distinguish functional and dysfunctional workplace learning cultures?
The project will report findings throughout its four-year life and will be completed by Autumn 2007.