Sunday, September 24, 2023

Trabalho e Educação Billett

Knowing in practice: Re-conceptualising vocational expertise Stephen Billett School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education Faculty of Education, Griffith University NATHAN 4111 Australia Ph (61) 7 3875 5855 Fax (61) 7 3875 6868 Email Billett S (2001) Knowing in practice: Re-conceptualising vocational expertise Learning and Instruction 11 (6) 431-452. Knowing in practice: Re-conceptualising vocational expertise The following re-conceptualisation of vocational expertise is premised on reconciling contributions from cognitive psychology with those from social and cultural theories of thinking and acting. Relations between the individuals acting and the social practice in which they act are proposed as bases for knowing and performance --- knowing in practice. Domains of knowledge are held to be products of reciprocal and interpretative construction arising from individuals’ engagement in social practice, rather than being abstracted disciplinary knowledge or disembedded sociocultural tools. The construction of the individuals’ domains of vocational practice is constituted reciprocally through their participation at work. Some implications for curriculum are also proposed. Introduction To date, views about expertise have largely been a product of theorising within cognitive psychology. This discipline has come to characterise expertise as the product of the breadth and organisation of individuals’ domain-specific knowledge comprising orders of procedures and levels of conceptual knowledge. Through work within this discipline over a period of three decades, expertise has come to be associated with the development of cognitive structures inside the head that can be applied skilfully in resolving problems associated with a domain of knowledge held as a long-standing truth. In this view, representations of knowledge held in memory are seen as being analogous to tools that can be applied to particular situations or impasses. However, resistance is mounting to the idea that the mind is located solely in the head and remote from the world beyond the skin (e.g. Scribner, 1997/1988; Wertsch, 1998). Not the least is the concern that performance in one situation does not predict performance in another, within the same domain of knowledge. Recent theorising has increasingly projected the mind into social practice and explored the relations between them. A non-dualist view is becoming more accepted, premised on the inseparability of relationships between individuals’ knowing and the social world in which they think and act (Rogoff, 1990; Scribner & Beach, 1993) and a concern to understand these relationships further (Scribner, 1997/1988). Some suggest a need to cast off dualism and the strong individual and mentalistic focus that has emerged from within cognitive psychology (e.g. Greeno, 1997; Hutchins, 1991). Some also propose that the individual’s contribution to this relationship represents no more than one component in the process of knowing that is distributed (Pea, 1993) or stretched (Lave, 1991) across social partners and artefacts. Others treat social determinism more cautiously, holding that cognition is both premised on individuals acting in socially-determined activities and sometimes separate from the physical circumstances (e.g. Cobb, 1998; Salomon, 1994), thereby locating roles for both individuals and social practice. The tension resides in the focus being on either capacities or practice (Pelissier, 1991) or on relations between the two. This leaves a conception of expertise that accounts for relations between the mind and social practice yet to be stated, and invites a reappraisal of current conceptions ofexpertise. The conception of expertise founded in mainstream American cognitive psychology based on individuals’ acquisition and organisation of domain-specific knowledge in memory sits uneasily with emerging views that include, emphasise or give primacy to the social and cultural contributions and their relationships to thinking, acting and knowing. With its focus on the internal processes of the mind, cognitive psychology is, on its own, unable to provide a comprehensive conception of expertise as it fails to account for the sources of knowledge, and their formation and transformations in the social world. Attempts to redress this positioning have guided recent work within the cognitive perspective (e.g. Resnick et al., 1991; Resnick et al., 1997). However, these are seen by some as attempts to merely contextualise cognitive theorising and as failing to enact fundamental shifts from viewing cognitive structures as acting ‘on’ to acting ‘in’ the social world (see Cobb, 1998). Taking these concerns, a conception of expertise is advanced that is locatable in the dynamic activities of social practices. It proposes how individuals come to know and act by drawing on cognitive, sociocultural and anthropological conceptions, and through an appraisal of the ontological premises of domains of knowledge. The interpsychological processes for developing expertise are held to be constituted reciprocally between the affordance of the social practice and how individuals act and come to know in the social practice. More than contextualising the cognitive account of expertise, relationships among social practice, activities and individual cognition are proposed as being central to this conception of expertise. Accordingly, it attempts to locate a path between the “twin hazards” of individual constructivism (particularly when portrayed as being overly mentalistic) and social determinism (Miller & Goodnow, 1995). Individuals’ construction of the knowledge that comprises a situated domain of expertise is founded in interpsychological processes of how individuals act within social practice, as this interaction interdependently engages knowledge with historical, cultural and situational geneses. This interdependence between the social practice and those who act within it (Lave, 1991) may be contested (Billett, 1995b) or resisted (Hodges, 1998). Consequently, individuals’ interactions with workplaces and the developments arising from these interactions are premised on participation in negotiated forms of engagement in work practice. Over time, these interpsychological processes result in the formation of intrapsychological attributes. However, as Vygotsky (1978) proposes, intrapsychological outcomes are a “ result of a long series of developmental events” (1978: 57) and the “process being transformed continues to exist and to change as an external form of activity before definitively turning inward” (1978: 57). Therefore, social situations --- such as workplaces --- are not just one-off sources of learning and knowing. Instead, they constitute environments in which knowing and learning are co-constructed through ongoing and reciprocal processes (Rogof1995; Valsiner, 1994). outcomes. The subjects were nominated as being either expert or non-expert on their frequency of success in predicting handicaps in horse races. There was no correlation amongst age, experience with handicapping and successful handicapping. Subjects were tested using the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), which correlates with the Full Scale IQ test (Ceci & Liker, 1986). The findings indicated no correlation between performance on these scales and expert or novice classifications. Therefore, general ability of the subjects was not a predictor of success. Another study, comparing responses to economics problems between college-educated students and subjects who had learnt their economics knowledge in the workplace, produced similar findings (Voss et al., 1983). The college-educated students performed better than their workplace-prepared counterparts when answering questions about economics, but floundered when faced with real work tasks. The workplace-prepared subjects did exceptionally well on the latter categories of tasks. A common factor, in these two studies and acknowledged in a recent review (Ericsson & Lehmann, 1996) is that the existence of strong generalised processing ability alone, as indicated on an intelligence test, is not a sufficient quality for successful performance. The expert handicappers in Ceci and Liker's (1986) study, and workplace learners in Voss et al.’s (1983) study required the integrated use of both strategic and highly specific forms of knowledge, embedded in a particular domain of activity. Similarly, Schraagen (1993) found that, whereas experienced scientists could develop research designs for familiar problems, they could not do so in unfamiliar areas. Studies of hospitality workers concluded that not only the goals for performance, but much of the knowledge required for performance, was quite situationally specific (Stevenson, 1996). Similar findings were advanced from investigations of airline counter workers (Beven, 1997). These studies illustrate the significant role of domain-specific knowledge in the performance at work, and either the invisibility or low level of contribution provided by more general competencies. Further, these findings point to the indivisibility between social practice and domains of knowledge that are manifested in particular ways in these social practices. For instance, basketball referees were able to identify categories of fouls more effectively than basketball players or coaches (Allard et al., 1991 cited in Ericsson & Lehmann, 1996). From what has been advanced above, domain specificity is salient for demanding thinking and acting, such as non-routine problem solving in everyday work activities. Therefore, contributions from the cognitive view are useful for understanding and identifying the attributes required for performance in goal-directed activities. Nevertheless, this view does little to account for the origins of these domains, nor for how individuals construct socially sourced knowledge in the forms of domains (Laufer & Glick, 1996). Yet, such is the interdependence in relationship between cognitive activities and the social world, that it possible to identify ways in which individuals’ construction of knowledge is structured by the goal-directed activities in which they engage. In illustrating this relationship, at least six bases can be identified from the cognitive literature (Billett, 1996). Firstly, the domain-specificity of expertise is associated with social practice. Consequently, salient principles which are indexed to social practice reflect the domain’s social genesis. Secondly, the knowledge constructed Page 7 through problem-solving is focused on resolving impasses set in the social world. Third, compilation of procedures and chunking of concepts is the result of ongoing engagement with socially-determined tasks. Fourth, transfer is socially and culturally constructed. Fifth, individuals' efforts are relational to social practice with some tasks extracting a more effortful response than others. And finally, socially determined dispositional factors are relational to cognitive structures and activities. Accordingly, the domain of knowledge and individuals’ learning of that knowledge, which includes its organisation and associations necessary for performance, are founded in relations with social practice. For instance, take the hallmark of expertise, success in non-routine problem solving within a domain. Beyond individuals’ familiarity with the activity, routineness will be determined by the norms of particular social practice (e.g. workplaces) as will judgments about the worth of solutions to those problems. In terms of vocational practice, the kinds of problems and what constitutes non-routine tasks will be located in particular instances of the vocational practice. For example, with automotive mechanics’ work, the routineness of workplace tasks will differ according the requirements of the work practice. In a major city dealership, where mechanics might work on only one or two makes of vehicles which may be under warranty, an expedient response to a faulty vehicle component might be replacement with another. However, in a garage in a small rural town, where mechanics work on all kinds, makes and ages of vehicles, and where spare parts are not easily sourced, a successful solution might be to repair the component part or fabricate another. So, whereas the cognitive view makes important contributions to understanding expert performance, the concept of domains advanced by this discipline needs extending to include those that can account for their source and development. Social and cultural conceptions of expertise: Practice Despite its prominence in the literature, the cognitive perspective does not monopolise views about what constitutes expertise. Other perspectives also offer important contributions. The sociocultural literature emphasises domains of social and cultural needs embedded in distinct lines of development within social practice (Scribner, 1985). From an anthropological perspective, Lave and Wenger (1991) refer to expertise as being ongoing movement towards full participation and the formation of identity within a particular community of practice, which is constantly evolving (Lave, 1993). In a similar way, Goodnow (1990) uses cultural psychology to make complementary contributions referring to the appropriateness of particular behaviour in culturally determined activities. These views emphasise particular social practice as the premise for expertise and as something arising through participation in the social practice: ‘knowing in practice’. These perspectives offer more than an alternative to the cognitive perspective, because they also offer ways of understanding the relationships between social practice and the mind. Sociocultural theory holds that the organisation and construction of knowledge are socially and culturally constituted. Within the sociocultural approach (Wertsch, 1991), or what Cole (1998) refers to as cultural history activity theory, four lines of the evolving social development of knowledge Page 8 are identified (e.g. Cole, 1998; Rogoff, 1990; Scribner, 1985;). These are: the phylogenetic --- the contribution to knowledge arising from the evolving history of the human species; the sociocultural --- the particular requirements of evolving cultural practice (e.g. a vocation); the ontogenetic --- the ongoing products of individuals’ learning throughout their lives through interaction with the social world; and the microgenetic --- the moment-by-moment learning of individuals. However, just as the domains of knowledge advanced in cognitive theory are abstracted epistemological truths, the sociocultural level of development is also disembedded from circumstances where individuals enact goal-directed activities. Sociocultural practice, which embodies cultural need, is remote and disembedded from actual practice just as the conception of a vocation (e.g. hairdresser, plumber, doctor) is disembedded from what occurs in the enactment of the vocation. This line of sociogenesis reflects cultural need (the vocation) rather than the exigencies of the enactment of that practice. It is at the situational level that the goal-directed vocational activities are shaped, albeit influenced by historical and sociocultural lines of development. The requirements of a particular vocational practice (e.g. in a particular hairdressing salon, medical practice, garage, coal mine) influence how the disembedded knowledge of the occupation is manifested in practice. Engestrom and Middleton (1996) refer to microsociological approaches, contexts and structuring of work as the product of local interactions and negotiations. Suchman (1996) similarly points to “a local order of familiar equipment and practices, specifically constituted for the work at hand.” (1996: 56) To account for the circumstances which furnish the goal-directed activities that individuals engage in and judgments about how these activities have been undertaken, the situational level warrants inclusion as a line of development within sociocultural theory. This directly acknowledges the contributions of situational factors where the historical and culturally derived knowledge is deployed and manifested in actual practice, as in cognitive accounts. The requirements of social practices (e.g. the workplace or work practice) can be understood by their activity systems (Engestrom, 1993) (e.g. division of labour, community, objects and rules) that determine how activities in particular work practice proceed. Moreover, given the range of factors comprising the activity system, the social practice, the activities within it and the requirements for performance are likely to be unique in some ways (Billett, 1998). These claims are supported by the kinds of analysis that Suchman (1996, 1997), provides in her accounts of an airport operations room where the activities are the product of the individuals and artefacts constitute a locally ordered work setting that is not pre-determined not static, but is continually re-constituting itself. Therefore, if complexes of situational factors differentiate particular social practice (such as workplaces), what comprises expertise will be conceptualised in different ways across communities of work practice (Wenger, 1998), because requirements for performance are founded in the social practice. This is the case even when an activity that is conceptually similar at the sociocultural level (e.g. an occupation), is being undertaken. Situational factors associated with the expert enactment of knowledge go beyond the possession of sociocultural technical skills or tools (e.g. cutting hair, Page 9 diagnosing a patient). Instead, these factors influence how these skills are manifested in a particular circumstance. Because of this, acceptable practice in one workplace may be quite inappropriate in another, as procedures are different and the goals for performance may be quite distinct. These factors influence not only the activities individuals engage in, but also what is taken as expert performance. In an investigation of work activities in four hairdressing salons, the goals for and bases of participation in hairdressing activities were determined by factors comprising the internal press of the workplace and external demands of the client community (Billett, 1995a). In each salon, the goals for hairdressing had distinctive features. Given the same set of hairdressing problems to resolve, hairdressers in each salon fashioned responses that had consistency across and within the salons as well as some individual variations. Therefore, some components of the responses were consonant with the goals and norms of the sociocultural practice (hairdressing), while others were those of the particular salons (situational manifestations of practice) and some idiosyncrasies arising from the hairdressers’ ontogenies. Observation revealed the characteristics of the vocational practice included what comprised performance in each salon. In a fashionable inner city salon, the key goals for performance were to transform the clients’ appearance, and to offer new cuts and colours. The interaction with clients in this salon was a product of the clientele and the interests and values (lifestyle) of the hairdressers. In a salon in a low socio-economic suburb, the requirements for performance were to manage a precarious business with an absent owner, two part-time senior hairdressers and a clientele that included those who demanded complex treatments, yet did not subsequently care for their hair. A key requirement here was to manage these ‘awkward’ customers when they returned complaining vociferously and forcefully about their treatments. In another salon, the clientele comprised elderly women who came for companionship as much as for hair treatments. Here, the hairdressers’ knowledge of clients’ personal histories, knowing the names and circumstances of family and friends, was an important component of practice. The fourth salon was in a provincial town in a rural region that was enduring a three-year drought. The goals here included providing good value to maintain the clientele and managing the difficult balance between eliciting additional service (colours and perms) yet not causing clients to choose between the cost of a hair treatment and groceries for home. The factors that constitute the social practice within each of the salons are identifiable by and may be explained through their activity systems that included the division of labour, rules and norms, relationships with the client community and the degree of internal cohesion. Each site had particular goals associated with the division of labour. For example, one salon had a rule that hairdressers should engage in tasks, as they became available, whose complexity was most consistent with their level of skills. These were part of the particular work practice insisted upon by the owner-manager. This resulted in clients frequently being swapped among hairdressers, as Page 10 tasks of greater accountability became available. At the salon in the low socio-economic suburb, there was some disagreement among the staff’ about their conception of hairdressing. However, these differences were subordinated by common concerns about the ‘awkward’ clients and security of employment. So there were concepts and procedures of the vocational practice that were common to each instance of vocational practice, the product of their activity systems (Engestrom 1993) and local negotiations (Suchman, 1996). Indeed, how these common views were negotiated also differed across these social practices. For example, in the trendy salon there were common values about hairdressing which were different from the almost familial atmosphere of another salon, which had different mores and values about hairdressing. In a third, there was a rigid form of internal press associated with the authority and presence of the owner-manager. For instance, the hairdressers operated under the owner’s rule of ‘no-yappers’. The hairdressing was to proceed in silence unless clients initiated conversations. The hairdressers in this salon developed a set of signals by which they communicated non-verbally. These mores led to particular work strategies being developed in this salon, some primarily associated with responding to idiosyncratic demands of the owner. The work in this salon progressed in comparative silence compared with the exchanges that occurred in the other salons and which were part of the rationale for the hairdressers’ work in the salon that catered to elderly women. In these ways, local negotiations (Suchman, 1996) determined the goals for practice. Similar situationally specific notions of competence were observable in open cut coal mines (Billett, 1995b). Even across mines owned by the same company, some of them on adjacent leases, there were different requirements for performance. These were premised on the history of ownership, different demarcations of work, historically entrenched work practices, the mine’s age and the mine’s location in the coal-bearing basin. Consequently, conceptions of expert performance are not uniform across these workplaces, with the differences being accounted for by the activity systems of these communities of work practice. Individuals’ engagement in work practice has consequences for accessing and learning situationally constituted knowledge. The work practice in each salon afforded quite different access to novices and experienced hairdressers alike and made different demands, with different consequences, for what they learnt. One variable was size. In smaller salons, the apprentices had responsibility for a wider range of activities earlier than in the larger ones. Another was culture of practice (Brown et al., 1989). In the trendy salon, each hairdresser worked on their own clients from greeting them at the door to getting them coffee, washing their hair, negotiating with them and styling their hair. So it was incumbent on the apprentice in this salon to take sole responsibility for clients as soon as possible. In another salon, key work tasks were divided among the hairdressers, and the apprentices were more focused on support and preparatory activities until their final year. There was also a privileging of particular knowledge amongst settings (Goodnow, 1990), some of which remained the sole domain of principal participants. For example, two owner- Page 11 managers maintained control over the ordering and management of stock. Therefore, in these salons, even senior hairdressers were denied the experience of managing stock. Yet, at another salon, the apprentice's role included checking and ordering stock. Consequently, although engaged in a common sociocultural practice, the salons not only had quite different requirements for expertise, but the way they afforded participation also differed. Expertise needs to be considered situationally, being related to the circumstances of the enactment of the vocational practice. This does not mean that the individual’s capacity to perform is welded to one setting. Rather, it recognises that expertise can only be understood within particular domains of knowledge and action (social practice), thus embedding it in particular social circumstances. Perhaps there is no such thing as a vocational expert per se, only those who are able to resolve non-routine and routine problems constituted by particular workplaces. For example, a hairdresser who might be expert in an inner city salon may not have some of the attributes required to be judged as an expert in one of the other salons. These characterisations are held to be qualities of expertise as situative phenomena. However, they constitute only one side of the interdependent relationship required for knowing at work. How individuals act in the social practice, thereby coming to know in ways that permit them to participate fully, and how they construct their domain of knowledge also reside with the individual. Therefore, the other dimension of the interdependence or interpsychological process is how individuals participate and construct knowledge. Individuals’ participation and construction: Knowing in practice The knowledge to be constructed by individuals and the means of that construction can be understood in terms of interdependence between the situation that comprises a domain of activities and goals, and the individuals acting in the social practice. This suggests that this knowledge, with its historical and cultural geneses, is manifested in particular ways in work practice, and that ultimately individuals’ appropriation of this embedded knowledge is interpretative or co-constructed (Valsiner, 1994; Wertsch, 1998). Accordingly, conceptions of domains need to include the individually constructed rule-system (procedures) and related conceptual knowledge (propositions), mediated by the socially derived circumstances in which they were deployed and appropriated interpsychologically. Over time, individuals’ situationally constructed domains of knowledge may become increasingly intersubjective when knowledge is shared with others, thereby engendering common aspects (Newman et al., 1989). However, it is unrealistic to expect complete concurrence and it is unlikely that knowledge that is opaque or not likely to be discussed will become intersubjective. Concept maps of the task of hair colouring generated by hairdressers in the four salons revealed much that was common (Billett, 1995a) at the superstructure level of their conceptual organisation (Groen & Patel, 1988). However, the microstructures of these concept maps were quite idiosyncratic. With concept maps of hair structures, the representations of the hairdressers’ knowledge were almost wholly idiosyncratic. The hairdressers claimed the differences were associated with the fact that hair colouring was discussed in the Page 12 workplace, whereas ‘hair structures’ were not talked about in the salons. Perhaps the reason for this is that hair structures are opaque and not accessible in hairdressing salons. Interestingly, the hairdressers claimed to associate concepts of hair structures with a different kind of social source: theory classes in technical colleges. Yet opportunities to develop intersubjectivity – for instance, with hair colouring do not mean that individuals will construct this knowledge wholly intersubjectively because idiosyncratic personal histories or ontogenies shape their constructions of knowledge (Billett, 1997). For instance, an English hairdresser working in Australia provided an atypical response to one problem. When asked about this response, the Australian hairdressers suggested that the solution was not appropriate in a hot climate where many clients spent time in chlorinated swimming pools. Further, as social practices are constantly transforming, the range of factors that determine the activity system must inevitably change over time. Whereas the sociocultural line of development reflects changing cultural needs (e.g. growing resistance to using chemicals in hairdressing), the situational level responds to factors at the level of the enactment of practice, which are themselves transforming. This transformation is ongoing because social practice such as that which occurs in workplaces is constantly being changed by the requirements of those who are the objects of its activities, those who work in them, the changing division of labour, relationships, and the norms and practices that constitute its activity systems (Engestrom & Middleton 1996; Suchman, 1996). For instance, since the investigation of the four hairdressing salons was completed, at least two of the salons have had a change of their ownership and significant changes in staff. It is within these constantly transforming situative domains of practice located in these workplaces that individuals engage in microgenetic development (moment-by-moment learning) (Rogoff, 1995), through their participation in goal-directed activities. Therefore, individuals’ interactions and negotiations within the social practice and their ability to maintain their participation represent an ongoing and evolving process. Individuals acting in social practice construct domains of knowledge; the construction of these domains is also mediated by their personal histories (e.g. their existing knowledge) and by the access to the activities of the particular social practice(s). This view of knowing in practice is quite distinct from those suggesting that domains of knowledge required for performance are objective bodies of knowledge, such as an academic disciplines or fields of study, not subject to interdependence among cultural need, social practice and individual interaction. Further, the degree to which hairdressers might be interested in being experts in a particular salon may well determine how they act in that social practice --- how their domains of vocational practice are shaped. Having been able to map the hairdressers’ interests and motivations, it seems improbable that some of them would be able to, or even be interested in, working in some of the other salons. Indeed, some hairdressers had deliberately self-selected and sought out their place of employment. Even under duress of the kind that was evident in one salon, they would most likely engage in mastery rather than appropriation of the knowledge accessed in the workplace (Wertsch, 1998). Despite the owner’s insistence that he knew best, the apprentices reported learning from other Page 13 apprentices with whom they interacted at college. These interactions broadened their understanding of procedures of vocational practice. These examples show that expertise is more relational to particular social practice than has perhaps been advanced within cognitive theory. The cognitive view focuses on capacities (cognitive structures, process and memory), while the situational view emphasises interactional systems that include individuals as participants interacting with others, artefacts and objects that comprise the social practice. So the contribution of individuals acting in social practice can be understood through a consideration of ontogeny as a product of the accumulation of experiences throughout life. Therefore, rather than being singular or uniform, the construction of knowledge is an interpretative outcome premised on individuals’ acting in social practice. Individuals’ unique bases of knowledge and ways of knowing are reflexively deployed through goal-directed activities in social practice as they co-construct (Valsiner, 1994) or appropriate (Rogoff, 1995; Wertsch, 1998) knowledge. Accordingly, the development of expertise from this view is characterised by intersections between the trajectories of the transforming social practice and individuals’ ontogenetic development. Because of their unique ways of knowing, individuals’ conceptions of the requirements for performance will likely be differentiated in some way from others acting in the social practice. Through interactions, greater subjectivity may be realised. Yet there is a dynamic interplay between the evolving requirements for performance in terms of activities and the fit of the individuals’ constantly evolving knowledge of that practice. Moreover, securing expertise is both ongoing and contested through individuals’ encounters and relations within the social practice, such as in workplaces. Engestrom and Middleton (1996) similarly conclude that expertise now needs to be viewed as the “ongoing collaborative and discursive construction of tasks, solutions, visions, breakdowns and innovations” (1996: 4). So the areas of complementarily between the cognitive and sociocultural theories host an invitation to build upon these theories to understand the relationships between the mind and social practice, rather than not wholly discarding one or the other of these sets of ideas. Yet is it possible to generalise from the findings of studies of hairdressers and coal miners? Are situated domains likely to be shaped only by particular spatial and shared activities, such as workplaces? Certainly, the kinds of intersubjectivities likely to arise when individuals directly interact in workplaces and at home are potentially of a different kind than where individuals practise their vocation or live in isolation from others. The kinds of coordinated activity that Suchman (1996; 1997) identifies in an airport operations room, discussions in the cockpits of commercial airlines (Hutchins & Palen, 1997) and those between shift workers in manufacturing (Trognon & Grusenmeyer, 1997) will likely result in enhanced intersubjectivity between social partners. However, direct interpersonal interactions are not the only set of social factors that shape performance. Scribner (1985) and Rogoff (1990) propose that cultural practices and norms shape even the most apparently solitary activities. Scribner (1985) uses Marx’s example of the solitary lighthouse keeper to illustrate that practices and Page 14 expectations (goals) with historical and social geneses shape even this solitary work. An artist working in the isolation of his studio reported shaping his practice to account for situational factors determining the kinds and purposes of his work that included physical environments and consideration of the market (Billett, 1999). Similarly, Goodnow (1990) claims that academic journals from Europe have quite different character and value different emphases than those from the United States. Hence the requirements for performance are products of different cultural practice. Even a common language has localised and cultural variations, making its enactment in different kinds of circumstances subject to particular requirements and knowledge about how to proceed. Perhaps the sociogenesis is strongest when individuals can encounter the direct guidance that makes shared understanding of historically, culturally and situationally constituted practice highly accessible and where practice is physically situated to afford models and access to cultural practices. Nevertheless, even the vocational practitioner who works alone (e.g. the concert pianist) is likely to be confronted by expectations of and requirements for performance that will differ across situations and circumstances (e.g. piano, acoustics, repetoire). Re-conceptualising expertise In re-conceptualising expertise as something that is situated, dynamic, founded in and relational to practice, some of Lave and Wenger’s (1991) propositions provide useful starting points. They refer to full participation in a community of practice, rather than expertise. Even then, full participation is shaped by a belief that all practitioners are peripheral in the sense that practice itself is fluid and evolving. Hence there is no such thing as central participation. They propose four qualities for full participation. Firstly, learning about a social practice is realised through the process of becoming a full participant. Access to and participation in the community’s activities are necessary bases for the understanding required for full participation. Consequently, engagement over time is required for the appropriation of situationally germane knowledge and skilfulness. In this way, expertise is defined more broadly than the possession of skilful knowledge; it also comprises competence in the norms and cultural practices that sustain and utilise these skills. This view emphasises a focus on the requirement of particular practice, and the need to move from peripheral (novice) to full participation (expertise) within that practice. Third, full participation implies being capable with new activities, performing new tasks and comprehending new understanding (Lave & Wenger, 1991). This view is consonant with the attributes of experts to be adaptable and transferable (i.e. -the cognitive hallmark of expertise - non-routine problem solving). Fourth, individuals are defined by, as well as defining, their relationship with the social practice in which they participate. For example, as full participants, senior hairdressers, owners and managers determine how the vocational practice of hairdressing is conducted and what constitutes acceptable performance and the division of labour. This again emphasises the reciprocity within socially determined activities (Rogoff, 1995; Valsiner, 1994). Page 15 As noted, cultural values are also germane to social practice and constitute a need to include these culturally determined dispositional aspects of competence. Goodnow (1990) proposes that competent performance is circumstantial, with some behaviour being seen as being more smart or intelligent than others in given circumstances. Although some behaviour, which would be described as being intelligent, is adaptive and similar across cultures, there will be situationally determined variants. As the view of expertise being proposed emphasises credibility within social practice, it needs to include behaviours and approaches that are likely to be held as being ‘intelligent’ in the particular circumstances. For instance, there is an expectation of being cool and logical in work planning situations, spontaneous and light in social situations, and emotional in romantic situations (Goodnow, 1990). Also, on some occasions, some approaches to problem solving are better than others. Equally, some problems will be viewed as significant, whilst others are trivial. The significance of problems and the valuing of solutions will be determined by the social and cultural exigencies of the particular practice. Finally, some skills and some areas of knowledge are seen in some communities as belonging to some people more than others. The community of practice determines a hierarchy of tasks (Lave, 1990) and, within that, there may be knowledge reserved for particular groups. This privileging determines access. Drawing on these social and cultural factors, a tentative conception of expertise that encompasses cognitive, social and cultural dimensions is proposed. Experts’ knowledge and its organisation, as conceptualised within the cognitive literature, are subsumed within this view. That is, the organisation and development of knowledge permits individuals to address non-routine problems within a domain of activity. However, more than just being a collection of situated examples of cognitive activity, expertise emphasises the interdependence of the social and cultural influences on this knowledge, the participation in practice required to know, and the strong role played by ‘non-cognitive’ cultural dispositions in performance at work. In these ways, distinctions between practice or capacities (Greeno, 1997; Pelissier, 1991) have been softened by suggesting that these capacities are influenced by and constructed through participation in social practice at intersections between the social practice and individuals’ ontogenies. Therefore, the key elements of this conceptualisation of expertise are its relational, embedded, competent, reciprocal and pertinent characteristics. Consequently, it is proposed that expertise: (i) is relational in terms of requirements of a particular social practice in which it is enacted; (ii) is embedded , being the product of extensive practise, with meaning about practice derived by becoming a full participant, over time, and with understanding shaped by participation in the activities and norms of that practice; (iii) comprises competence in the community's discourse, in the routine and non-routine activities, mastery of new understanding, and the ability to perform and adapt existing skills; (iv) is reciprocal , shaping as well as being shaped, by the community of work practice, which includes setting and maintaining standards of the practice; and Page 16 (v) requires pertinence in the appropriateness of problem solutions, such as knowing what behaviours are acceptable, and in what circumstances, in problem-solving. This quality reflects the values a community of work practice assigns to problems and the appropriate amount of effort and understanding of what knowledge is privileged. Considerations for curriculum A view of expertise as located in particular social practice presents the relationship between what has to be known (i.e. the norms, procedure, and concepts) and the knower (the individual) as a dynamic one. This relationship can be considered in terms of curriculum as pathways of participation in social practice. Such pathways are referred to in both the cognitive and sociocultural literatures. Cognitive psychology posits a pathway to expertise through the acquisition of procedural and conceptual knowledge, organised and richly indexed to facilitate complex thinking activities, such as adaptability, transfer and non-routine problem solving within a socially constituted domain (Gott, 1989; Royer, 1979). A sociocultural pathway to expertise is associated with engagement in particular social practices and seen as a trajectory towards the goal of participating fully, through engagement in tasks of increasing accountability. Over time, this participation leads to the acquisition of ‘skilful knowledge’, but also to the facility to engage successfully in the discourse, norms and practices of the particular social practice (Engestrom & Middleton, 1996; Goodnow, 1990; Säljö, 1999), thereby emphasising relations between capacities and practice. Commonality across both perspectives include the construction of knowledge arising through problem-solving that permits successful performance within a specific set of circumstances. The goals within these problem-solving processes are socially sourced, as are procedures used to secure those goals. While both perspectives refer to the application of salient concepts to secure outcomes, the sociocultural and cultural psychology views both emphasise relational aspects of competence. Together, they emphasise that expertise will likely be realised through social circumstances that provide the kinds of problems and solutions that are relational to and authentic within those circumstances. That is, learning experiences that are divorced from those activities and goals found in the circumstances where the knowledge is to be applied (e.g. substitute activities and sites) may not develop the kinds of knowing required to respond successfully to non-routine tasks. In this view of expertise, novices do not necessarily lack capability. They may, however, lack access to the knowledge within a particular domain of activities (practice) that permits the conceptualisation and categorisation of problems and, consequently, the capacities to secure goals. Differences amongst social practice and requirements for performance raise further concerns about the potential to transfer knowledge from one setting to another. The complex of situational factors and local negotiations that comprises practice may explain the problem of transfer across situations where the same vocational activity is being conducted. For example, the particular social circumstances of educational institutions and workplaces (those situations where vocational practice is conducted) are rendered quite distant from each other by analyses premised Page 17 on activity as the basis for knowing in practice. Further, accounts of the contributions of situational factors and local negotiations defy the value of highly detailed and prescriptive curricula intents that are increasingly favoured in vocational education, often in behavioural formats (i.e. competency standards). The situational factors also challenge assumptions that knowledge can be understood by decontextualised and abstracted entities (e.g. key or generic competencies). It is the particular complex of factors that gives meaning to problem-solving activities in the community of work practice, and solutions need to account for these factors. Therefore, developing expertise requires more than a focus on cognitive and sociocultural tools. How those tools are enacted in particular circumstances and activities is crucial. Although shaped by sociocultural sources that convey durable knowledge, this knowledge is also embedded in domains of activities within the social practice, thereby transforming the abstracted knowledge through its application (e.g. the teaching or deployment of academic disciplines). Expertise includes that which permits the resolution of non-routine problems to the satisfaction of the requirements of social practice. Conceptions of curriculum, therefore, need to take into account how goals for performance vary and articulate how it is possible to develop knowledge that is robust enough to transcend the particular workplace. Therefore, in developing robust knowledge in individuals, different conceptions of solutions to problems and their adequacy need to be appraised. Variability in practice needs to be emphasised, with principles and practices identified that assist knowing about different kinds of solutions and evaluations of their appropriateness. For instance, apprentice chefs might learn about different ways of thickening sauces. These ways of knowing would include the application of existing sociocultural practice (e.g. a rue for white sauce and arrowroot for fruit flans), what kinds of thickening are likely to be useful in different kinds of catering (e.g. restaurant and hospital food) and for different kinds of purposes (further thickening a sauce that is too thin, cost considerations). This strengthens the view that it is not sufficient to learn just the knowledge and procedures of sociocultural development. It also elaborates the reasons why learning experiences should also focus on conditions of application of the knowledge and skills to be learnt and how those applications might vary across instances of vocational practice. Summary In sum, a dynamic, negotiated and situated view of expertise is advanced here building upon the contributions from cognitive psychology (e.g. Ericcson & Lehmann, 1996; Ericsson & Smith, 1991), anthropology (Lave, 1993; 1991), cultural psychology (Goodnow, 1990) and sociocultural theory (e.g. Cole, 1998; Wertsch, 1991; 1998), and others whose work sits between these disciplines (Rogoff, 1990; 1995). Central to this case is the conception of domains of knowledge. Rather than being epistemological truths with an objective and singular character, such as those associated with academic study, socially determined activities constitute domains of knowledge Page 18 that are shaped by history and culture. In turn, these individuals construct this knowledge as personally structured and organised domains, which may become increasingly intersubjective if shared through interpsychological processes in workplaces. Both cognitive psychology and sociocultural theory advance conceptions of domains that are abstracted and remote from the circumstances in which goal-directed activities of vocational practice are enacted. As others have argued (e.g. Cobb, 1998; Lave, 1993), it is not adequate to merely add contextual factors to cognitive conceptions. Nor is it useful to emphasise social and cultural contributions at the cost of discarding the individual as a significant and interdependence agent (Salomon, 1994). Instead, there are bases for reconciling the cognitive and sociocultural perspectives and important contributions from other disciplines that augment and advance our understanding of thinking, acting and knowing. Consequently, the proposal here sits within concerns that elaborate and reappraise ideas advanced within cognitive psychology (e.g. domains of knowledge, expertise, problem solving) and acknowledge the contributions of both capacities and practice to the formation of expertise and its development by individuals. In doing so, it sits within and contributes to current discussions about the relationships between social practice and individuals acting in social practice, through attempting to avoid the ‘twin hazards’ of individual constructivism and social determinism (Miller & Goodnow, 1995). Ultimately, expertise is held to be a product of interdependence between the individual acting and the social practice in which they act: ‘knowing in practice’. 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(pp.35-60). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Suchman, L. (1997). Centers of coordination: A case and some themes. In L. B. Resnick, C. Pontecorvo & R. Saljo (Eds.), Discourse, Tools and Reasoning: Essays on Situated Cognition . (pp.41–62). Berlin: Springer. Sweller, J. (1989). Should problem solving be used as a learning device in mathematics? Journal of Research into Mathematics Education, 20 (3), 321-28. Trogon, A., & Grusenmeyer, C. (1997). To resolve a technical problem through conversation. In L. B. Resnick, C. Pontecorvo & R. Saljo (Eds.), Discourse, Tools and Reasoning: Essays on Situated Cognition. (pp.87-110). Berlin: Springer. Valsiner, J. (1994). Bi-directional cultural transmission and constructive sociogenesis. In Graaf & R. Maier (Eds.), Sociogenesis Re-examined (pp. 101-134). New York: Springer. Voss, J. F., Tyler, S. & Yengo, L. (1983). Individual differences in the solving of solving of social science problems. In R. Dillion & R. 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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Pura Beleza

Tenho uma lista das mais lindas melodias que conheço. El Unicornio, de Silvio Rodriguez. é uma delas.

Aprender Fazendo

Um dos autores que sugere caminhos interessantes para se comprender EPT é Stephen Billet. Acabo de receber indicação de artiogo dele, Knowing in Practice. Recomendo.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Volta ao Aprendente

Já tive muitos blogs. Na época de ouro deles, tinha cinco. Todos ativos. Depois eles foram cessando a caminho do cemitário dos blogs. Restou o Aprendente. Logo depois inaugurei o Boteco Escola que ganhou alguma fama. Investi muito no pedaço e este Aprendente foi ficando para trás. Não quero que ele vá para o cemitério blogal. Por isso, a ele volto, como agora. E prometo que voltarei mais vezes.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Samba do bom




 Como faz tempo que nada edito aqui, vou fazer alguns ensaios para explorar o ambiente ambiente. Começo com imagens.

Esta é a capa de obra coletiva do grupo Webquestcat. Nele aparecem, por cortesia dos meus amigos da Catalunha, dois capítulos com textos meus. Um sobre Webquest. outro sobre Webgincana.

Os organizadores da obra são Carme Barba e Sebastià Capella. Carme é um amiga que, infelizmente, partiu antes da hora marcada. Nos conhecemos via internet, quando pedia ela que redigisse um texto sobre WQ para o site que mantínhamos na Escola do Futuro/USP sobre o modelo de usos da internet em educação criado por Bernie Dodge. Posteriormente, nos encontramos duas vezes cara a cara, em Barcelona. Ficou uma saudade doída desta grande educadora catalã.

Aqui a capa do livro aparece na versão catalã. A obra foi publicada posteriormente em espanhol e português.

Vale notar que o prefácio do livro foi escrito por Bernie Dodge,.

Aprender no trabalho

 Learning through work:

Workplace affordances and individual engagement
Billett S (2001) Learning through work: Workplace affordances and individual engagement.
Journal of Workplace Learning 13 (5) 209-214
Stephen Billett
School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education,
Faculty of Education, Griffith University
This paper identifies factors that shape how learning proceeds in workplaces. It
focuses on the dual bases of how workplaces afford opportunities for learning and
how individuals elect to engage in work activities and with the guidance provided by
the workplace. Together, these dual bases for participation (co-participation) at
work, and the relations between them, are central to understand the kinds of
learning that workplaces are able to provide and how improving the quality of that
learning might proceed. The readiness of the workplace to afford opportunities for
individuals to engage in work activities and access direct and indirect support is a
key determinant of the quality of learning in workplaces. This readiness can promote
individual’s engagement. However, this engagement remains dependent upon the
degree by which individuals wish to engage purposefully in the workplace.
1. Learning though work
The way workplaces afford opportunities for learning and how individuals elect to engage in
activities and with the support and guidance provided by the workplace, is central to
understanding workplaces as learning environments. These dual bases for participation at work ---
co-participation --- and the relations between them, are held to be central to understanding the
kinds of learning that workplaces provide. In particular, the readiness of the workplace to afford
opportunities for individuals to participate in work activities and access direct and indirect support
are key determinants in the quality of learning that arises from that participation. These
affordances are salient to the outcomes of both structured workplace learning arrangements, such
as mentoring, as well as learning derived through everyday participation at work. The level of
enterprise readiness as key determinant for is supported by the findings of an investigation of
guided learning in five workplaces (Billett, McCann & Scott 1998, Billett 2000). It was found that
guided learning strategies (Modelling, Coaching, Questioning, Analogies &Diagrams) augmented
learning through everyday work activities. However, across the enterprises participating in this
study, there were differences in the use of these strategies and perceptions of their value. Factors
such as variations in enterprise size, their activities and workplace goals for learning did not fully
explain these differences. Instead, the level of the enterprise’s readiness to afford activities and
guidance was identified as a key factor. Overall, it seems learners afforded the richest
opportunities for participation reported the strongest development, and that workplace readiness
was central to the quality of experiences. Readiness is more than the preparedness for guided
learning to proceed. It also includes the norms and work practices that constitute the invitational
qualities for individuals to participate in and learn through work. The degree by which workplaces
provide rich learning outcomes through everyday activities and intentional interventions will be
determined, at least in part, by its readiness to afford opportunities and support for learning.
2. Work and learning: Participatory practices
There is no separation between participation in work and learning (Lave 1993). Work activities,
the workplace, other workers and observing and listening are consistently reported as key sources
for workers to learn their vocational activities through work (Billett 1999a). The moment-by-
moment learning or microgenetic development (Rogoff 1990, 1995) occurring through everyday
engagement at work is shaped by the activities individuals engage in, the direct guidance they
access and the indirect contributions provided by the physical and social environment of the
workplace. Work activities act to reinforce, refine or generate new forms of knowledge. This kind
of ongoing learning is analogous to what Piaget (1966) referred to as accommodation (new
learning) and assimilation (refining and reinforcing existing knowledge).
Learning through participating in work can be understood in terms of the how the
workplace support or inhibit individuals’ engagement in work activities and access to both the
direct and indirect guidance. These affordances are constituted in work practices. However, they
are not afforded evenly to all workers. The bases for how these affordances are distributed
perceptions of individuals’ competence;
the workers’ race (Hull 1997), gender (Tam 1997),
status of work (Darrah 1996, 1997)
employment status(Darrah 1996, 1997),
workplace demarcations (Bernhardt 1999, Billett 1995, Danford 1998);
personal relations, workplace cliques and affiliations (Billett 1999b).
Given the relationship between participation and learning, how individuals or groups of
individuals’ participation is invited (i.e. encouraged or inhibited) becomes a central concern for
understanding and enacting workplace learning. This is particularly the case because workplaces
tend to be contested environments. Access to opportunities to participate, particularly in
undertaking new tasks or those of central importance to the workplace, are the source of
contestation between:
‘newcomers’ or ‘old-timers’ (Lave & Wenger 1991),
full or part-time workers (Bernhardt 1999);
teams with different roles and standing in the workplace (Darrah 1996, Hull 1997);
individuals’ personal and vocational goals (Darrah 1997);
or among institutionalised arrangements such as those representing workers, supervisors
or management (Danford 1998).
Therefore, participation in work activities is not afforded in similar ways to all who work in the
workplace and participation in work activities can the bases of competition and exclusion between
competing interests. For example, part-time, contractual workers and home-based workers may
struggle to be afforded the kinds of opportunities to participate in the ways available to full-time
employees. Part-time women workers have been shown to have difficulty in maintaining their
skills currency and realising career aspirations (Tam 1997). Lower status workers may be denied
the affordances enjoyed by high status workers (Darrah 1996). Affiliations and demarcations
within the workplace also constitute bases to distribute opportunities. For instance, plant operators
in an amalgamated union invited fellow plant workers to access training and practice while
restricting opportunities to other workers in the same union (Billett 1995). Personal affiliations in
workplaces also determine participation and how coworkers’ efforts are acknowledged. How
individuals access both familiar and new work tasks, and interact with coworkers, particularly
more experienced workers, shapes the quality of the learning outcomes. Given that knowledge is
held to be socially sourced and its construction mediated by social processes (e.g. access to
guidance, observation and interactions with other workers) and artefacts/signs (e.g. workplace and
its artefacts) (Valsiner & van de Veer, 2000) these participatory factors are central to
understanding how workplaces afford opportunities to learn.
However, while acknowledging the salience of contributions afforded by workplaces, it is
also necessary to account for how individuals elect to engage with workplace activities and
guidance also shapes the quality of their learning. Learning new knowledge (i.e. concepts about
work, procedures to undertake tasks or attitudes towards work) is effortful and refining the
knowledge previously learnt are mediated by individuals’ existing knowledge, including their
values about to which activities they should direct their energies. It would be mistaken, therefore
to ignore the role of human agency. Participation in work activities does not lead to the
unquestioned learning of what is afforded by the workplace. Individuals are active agents in what
and how they learn from these encounters (Engestrom & Middleton 1996). Wertsch (1998)
distinguishes between mastery and appropriation. The former is the superficial acceptance of
knowledge coupled with the ability to satisfy the requirements for public performance. The
unenthusiastic use of standard salutations by supermarket check out operators and airline cabin
crews can be used as illustrations of mastery. Appropriation is the acceptance by the individual of
what they are learning and their desire and effortful engagement to make it part of their own
repertoire of understandings, procedures and beliefs (Luria 1976). However, regardless of whether
appropriation and mastery results from these encounters, they are both the product of individuals’
values, beliefs and understandings, which are a product of their life histories, engaging with
activities, goals and interactions that are constituted situationally in the workplace. The degree of
similarity or relatedness (Valsiner 1994) between the individuals’ vales and what the workplace
affords may determine whether individuals encounters with workplace experiences result in
appropriation or mastery. That is committed or superficial learning.
Figure One depicts the dual bases for co-participation at work, by representing the
affordances that workplaces can provide and the outcomes arising from that participation, in the
left-hand circle. On the right-hand side are the bases for individuals’ engagement and outcomes.
Figure 1 – Co-participation at work (Billett 1999b)
Workplace affordances Individuals’ participation in work
Work practice Individuals’
(access and engagement)
(values, knowledge
personal history, ways of
knowing, engagement in
other social practices)
Tools, aims, goals
Values, norms
Degree of
relatedness Conceptions, procedures
and values
3. Coparticipation at work
The findings of an investigation of learning in workplaces reported earlier (Billett, 2000)
foreshadowed the significance of the relations between participatory practices and learning
through work. The findings of this investigation are useful in illustrating co-participation at work.
As noted earlier (Billett 2000), this investigation examined the efficacy of the contributions of
both the ‘unintended’ (i.e. everyday activities, observing and listening, other workers, the
workplace) referred to as the ‘learning curriculum’ (Lave 1990) and intended guided learning
strategies (i.e. Modelling, Coaching, Analogies, Diagrams, Questioning) to learning the
knowledge required for work performance. The data gathering procedures included monthly
interviews over a six-month period that elicited learners’ accounts of recently undertaken
workplace tasks. Learners were asked about whom or what had helped them complete these tasks
or what contribution they needed more of in order to complete tasks. Throughout the
investigation, the researchers also made notes about each of the workplaces and how the provision
of workplace learning was manifested in each setting. The findings overviewed here are drawn
from three workplaces, providing comparisons across and within workplaces about how they
afforded participation in work activities. Healthylife1 is a large food manufacturer, with a history
1 The names of the three enterprises referred to here are fictitious.
of in-house training. Workers in many areas of the plant were quite familiar with work-based
learning programs. Albany Textiles is a large textile manufacturing company. It has a highly
demarcated workforce and hierarchical organisational structure with little in the way of a tradition
of in-house training in the manufacturing plant at the time of the investigation. Powerup is a
recently corporatised, public sector power distribution company. At the time of the project, it was
settling into its new corporate structure and role. The employees of this company were either
based in the head office or located across the regions to which that the company distributed
electricity. While the findings do not directly inform about how other factors (e.g. gender,
language, division of labour and affiliations) shape participation, they contribute to understanding
the process of and consequences for participation at work and learning through that participation.
Overall, it was found that where the affordances were richest, the reported learning
outcomes associated were higher than where this support was not forthcoming. Yet, there were
instances where individual actions worked against the norms of the work place. At Healthylife,
the product development area was highly invitational for learning, and accepted and appreciated
as such by the learners. These affordances included the mentors’ intent to provide the most
effective level of guided learning, supported by an environment which was open to constructive
interactions. Here, concerns about preparation were focussed on how to best use the strategies to
make workplace learning more effective. In some instances, the mentors used the strategies in
combination and in ways that allow them to merge effectively when working with learners. This
is seen as the desirable outcome of intentional learning strategies being used and accepted as part
of everyday practice in the workplace. In contrast, the highly invitational qualities of this
workplace were seemingly rejected by an instance of reluctant participation; a new recruit in the
occupational health and safety area. His reluctance to engage with the workplace and dismissal of
the mentor and the guided learning strategies was quite distinct. He most valued contributions that
excluded the mentor (Billett 2000). This illustrates how the affordances of the workplace
supported learning (as reported by the mentors and learners), alone cannot guarantee rich learning
outcomes when individuals decide not to engage in the work practice. Whereas Healthylife,
provided an instance of an individual resisting engagement in the guided learning and the work
practice, Albany Textiles provides a case where the opposite was true. Despite the low level of
support and readiness for guided learning and low levels of reported outcomes (see Billett 2000),
one mentor worked against the norms of practice by providing high levels of support. This was
both appreciated by and instrumental for the two learners concerned, thereby making the
workplace supportive and invitational for them. The two learners stated that their guide had
opened up possibilities for them that they had thought were inaccessible. This action emphasises
an important emancipatory role for workplaces in providing opportunities for those for whom
there is no option other than to learn in the workplace. Finally, with Power Up, one individual
struggled and persisted when other coworkers withdrew from the workplace learning
arrangements, to which the work environment was not ready or committed.
These findings indicate the potential of individual agency to shape what constitutes an
invitation to participate. While it demonstrates the capacity to offset some of the limitations of a
weak learning environment, it also demonstrates the capacity to marginalise what a potentially
comprises a rich level of affordance and support. Also, the degree of workplace readiness
influences how activities and support are afforded as part of everyday work activities. The data
indicate that the openness and support for learning also influences the learning occurring through
everyday workplace activities. Realising the full potential of learning at these work sites and, in
particular, the mentoring process is unlikely to be fulfilled without careful scene-setting and
thorough preparation. In some ways, these findings are commonsensical. That is, the kinds of
opportunities provided for learners will be important for the quality of learning that transpires.
Equally, how individuals engage in work practice will determine how and what they learn.
Nevertheless, these factors may be overlooked if the links between engaging in thinking and
acting at work and learning through those actions are not fully understood. Establishing a
workplace training system, without understanding the bases for participation, such as the
workplace’s readiness to encourage and support that participation, may lead to disappointment for
both workers and enterprises.
The identification of these bases for participation and their consequences for learning has
three important conceptual implications. Firstly, a current area of deliberation within
constructivist theory is to understand the relations between individuals and social practice. Here,
it is shown that rather than being a mere element of social practice (e.g. Hutchins 1991) individual
agency operates both interdependently and independently in social practices as Engestrom and
Middleton (1996) propose. However, this agency manifests itself in a different ways. While there
is evidence of interdependence, there are also examples of individuals acting independently in
ways inconsistent with the norms and practices of the work practice. This is not to propose a shift
back to individualistic psychological analyses. Instead, individuals’ socially-derived personal
histories (ontogenies) with their values and ways of knowing mediate how they participate and
learn in social practice, such as workplaces. Relations between ontogenies and social practice
shape individuals engagement in the social practice of the workplace. The kinds of co-
participation at work identified in the three enterprises referred to above commence the process of
understanding the likely diversity of relations between the individual and social practice that
shape individuals’ participation and learning.
Secondly, the findings emphasise that individuals’ participation at work is not passive or
unquestioning. Even when support is forthcoming, --- that is the workplace is highly invitational -
-- individuals may elect not to participate in the goal-directed activities effortfully or support
available or appropriate the knowledge that is made accessible. Individuals need to find meaning
in their activities and value in what is afforded for them to participate and learn. Coal miners, for
instance, were skeptical of work safety training which they believed was aimed to transfer the
responsibility for safe working practices from the mine management to the miners themselves
(Billett 1995). Equally, when workers believed the enterprise focus was too strong in their
college-based course they withdrew their commitment, claiming their needs and aspirations went
beyond the company’s goals and procedures which were represented in the course (Billett &
Hayes 2000). Darrah (1997) has vividly depicted how inconsistencies between the values of the
workplaces and those of the workers led to a rejection of unacceptable work practices. Indeed, as
Hodges (1998) has shown, rather than identifying with the values and practices of the workplace,
participation can lead to a dis-identification with those values and practices. At Heatlthylife, the
new occupational health and safety officer might have been more competent than his mentor and
had something special to contribute to the OHS policies within the workplace. This suggests
different kinds of invitational qualities are required, such as those able to engage reluctant
participants and assist them finding meaning through participation in ways that permit them to
transform and/or contest existing values and practices.
Thirdly, in so far as they can offer individuals access to crucial components of vocational
knowledge, it is important that workplaces are highly invitational. The findings suggest that
where support is available, workplaces can facilitate the learning of the hard-to-learn knowledge
required for vocational practice. It seems that for workplace learning to proceed effectively, how
workers are afforded opportunities to participate and be supported in this endeavor will shape the
prospect of rich learning outcomes.
Participation in work and learning
In sum, although the guided learning strategies trialled in the five workplaces demonstrated that
when they are used frequently, and in ways supportive of the work tasks individuals are engaged
in, that they can develop much of the knowledge required for workplace performance (see Billett
2000). These strategies augment the contributions provided by everyday participation at work.
However, underpinning both of these kinds of contributions is co-participation. That is how the
workplace affords opportunities for individuals to engage in and be supported in learning in the
workplace. Accordingly, to improve workplace learning there will a need for (i) appropriate
development and implementation of workplace environments that are invitational; (ii) a tailoring
of the workplace learning curriculum to particular enterprise needs, including the readiness of
both the learners and the guides; (iii) encouraging participation by both those who are learning
and those guiding the learning; and (iv) the appropriate selection and preparation of the learning
guides. These kinds of measures seem to offer foundations upon which workplaces can become
effective sites for the development of the kinds of knowledge that would benefit both workplaces
and the individuals who work in them.