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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Improving Incentives to Learning in the Workplace

Grant reference: L139251005

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Conference paper/presentation details

TLRP: Rescuing communities of practice from accusations of idealism: a case study of workplace learning for secondary school teachers in England
This paper draws on data from our recent research project in order to examine Lave and Wenger’s (1991) ideas on communities of practice, in relation to workplace learning. The project is one of five which form the Research Network Improving Incentives for Workplace Learning, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP). It looks at the workplace learning of English Secondary School Teachers, taking as case studies four subject departments, music, history, art and Information Technology, in two schools. Data has been gathered over two years through interviews with the teachers in those departments, observation within the schools and collection of documents. We have focused on the communities of practice theorising, rather than others, such as activity theory, through a mixture of planning and serendipity. We have no doubt that other theoretical stances would also have helped make meaningful sense of our data, and are not suggesting that the communities of practice theorising is inherently superior, in some way. However, activity theory, at least in the form advocated by Engestrom (1999), seemed better suited to larger scales of focus than our very small departments. Also, as we analysed our data, the centre of the teachers’ learning seemed to be located in their identity and dispositions and their relationships with each other. Their activities were also important, but seemed dependant upon those dispositions and relationships. The communities of practice theorising seemed in tune with this observation, and allowed us to place those relationships at the centre of our analysis. What we have tried to do here is show how that theorising can be extended, to circumvent some real and apparent problems with the two main published versions.
Original Document

Primary contributor

Author H Hodkinson

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