It brings together two topics within my research sphere – pedagogy and identities. It’s a relatively short book – not quite 200 pages – with 10 chapters.
The book begins with an Introduction: Flipping the lens from educator to learner, written by Helen Bound. This chapter, along with the following chapter, introduces the book’s focus on learners as being at the centre of learning, instead of educators or teachers. The rationale is that work constructs will shift but it is the individual who has to adjust to these changes. Providing agency and opportunities for learners’ continued professional development, equips them with the skill sets and attributes to make choices and continue with ongoing employment.
The second chapter by the book’s 3 editing authors, introduces the key constructs: conceptions of learners’ future-orientation, identities, contexts, and practices. These three are interconnected. Learners embark on a continuous journey to become and be, meaning their identities shift as contexts of their work and occupational practices shift with time and future orientations.
The next four chapters make up the section on ‘framing the issues’.
First up is Anne Edwards with a chapter on ‘rethinking learning for a high-skills economy: what a cultural-historical approach can offer. Uses Vygotsky ‘social pathway of learning’ as a means to explain how people’s agency are in turn supported by the various ways their learning environment, socio-cultural relationships, and work tasks. It is important to try to understand the multiplicity of paths individuals may select from and how these are impinged upon by many other factors.
Secondly, Roger Säljö writes on ‘learning in a designed work: symbolic technologies and epistemic practices in the evolution of professional knowing. Proposes that humans have always created artefacts (tools, machines, books etc.) to support their work. Intellectual activities also depend on symbolic technologies and these are much more prevalent now due to the advances in digital technologies. It is important to understand how we integrate these into our work as they assist as to think, problem solve and becoming competent workers.
The third chapter in the section is by Henning Salling Olesen. His chapter is titled ‘researching lifelong learning policy: concepts and tools’. Calls for the recognition of practical perspectives into how we understand ‘formal learning’ and ‘lifelong learning’.
The fourth chapter by Arthur Chia is on ‘future of work, transitions, and future-orientated learning’. Utilises a social economy perspective on work and poses the need to ensure there is a more equitable future that allows the needs and interests of working people’s learning are prioritised. Proposes future orientated learning as a means to enhance ownership and control of their work, labour and skills. This is supported through the ‘six principles of learning design’ to engender workers’ and learners’ agency, mutual exchange and interaction, participation and engagement in work.
The next section covers ‘flipping the lens in practice’ and has 4 chapters.
First up, Christine Owen writes on ‘enhancing learning in the workplace’. Applies psychological and socio-cultural perspectives to argue that workplace learning is a two way process – between worker agency and workplace affordances. This chapter adds to the corpus of work on better understanding the complex nature of workplace learning.
Then, Rebekah Lim Wei Ying’s chapter ‘towards expertise: operationalizing identity development and considerations for the Singapore work-study programme covers how the growth of agency in workplace learners, is connected relationally to a complex web of ‘others’. These include the signs and symbols mediated by how people use these; and the identity positions assumed by people which augment or downgrade who they are. Proposes that study of work should include perspectives of the learner, the learners’ reflection of their growth, and how others view the learner.
Next up, Helen Bound and Seng Chee Tan write on ‘dialogic inquiry: a pedagogy for foregrounding future-oriented learners and their learning’. Argues for a shift from exploring ‘educator and content’ towards the dialogic processes of teaching and learning. There needs to be a stronger focus on learners and learning. Uses two case studies to illustrate the richness of data from applying dialogic inquiry to better understand learning.
The last chapter is by BiXioafang on ‘adult learners’ sense-making in blended learning environments: Healthcare and workplace safety and health’. Brings in the ‘blended learning’ environment into the milieu. Explores the sense-making features of individuals in two blended courses; and the impact of sense-making contributors (context, design and delivery).
Overall, good chapters to provide food for thought on the changes in how we understand workplace learning. Although a complex environment, context, individuals’ agency, and workplace affordances are predominate players. Ensuring learner support to understand better, their own motivations and learning trajectories; promoting better workplace understanding and support; and the provision of government policies to support seen to be the way to go.