RESEARCHING AT WORK - PATTERNS OF LEARNER ENGAGEMENT
City, University of London (UNITED KINGDOM)
This paper explores the role and identity of learners who are conducting research into their own employers management practices as part of a postgraduate degree programme. Using reflective accounts from the learners themselves a picture emerges of their relationships to the research process and their employer. Further analysis indicates a number of orientations towards both research as an activity and the employer as a sponsor/enabler which give rise to 5 distinct patterns of engagement. These patterns of engagement provide the basis for a discussion of learner identity within the workplace and its implications for learning at both the individual and organisational level.
The concept of learner/worker (Solomon and Boud 2003) is revisited in the context of research as a work activity (collecting, analysing and presenting data) exposing some of the latent tensions within these identities and their potential implications for educational practices. The conclusions tend towards supporting the view that learners manage their own learning (Poell and Van der Grogt 2003) but at the same time reveal a level of self governance in relation to the potential career consequences of undertaking what could be seen as more critical analyses of management practices. Foucault's concept of self regulation is employed as a means of understanding how research within organisations is presented (or concealed) by learners depending on their perception of the organisations acceptance / tolerance of criticism.
In the past the tensions between workplace and university have been described as those between different communities of practice. This paper suggests that an equally valid interpretation may be that of different regimes of truth, each having its own understanding of, and response to, learning. The patterns of behaviour which emerge from learners conducting research in organisations enable us to understand more about how these regimes interact and how learners may resist (Butin 2001) The five emergent patterns (protege, role base, personal interest, student and covert) are therefore presented in terms of both possible learner identities and it relation to regimes of truth manifest in the workplace and within higher education.