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Professional Learning in the Workplace : A Case in Study in Higher Education.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Deborah J Anderson
Publication date2009
Number of pages208
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
Electronic ISBNs9780438570771
<mark>Original language</mark>English


With the aim of contributing to understanding of learning in the workplace, this thesis uses a case study approach to explore the learning of a newly-formed community of practice in the complex environment of higher education. Social theories of learning, based on a paradigm where learning is part of a social activity, have emerged to explain how individuals and groups develop knowledge in the workplace. Whilst studies to date have focussed on established communities of practice, very little work has examined how a new group, with no established experts or ways of working, learns in the workplace. Analysis of interview data from a newly-formed group of eleven learning and teaching co-ordinators revealed a series of practice clusters in which participants appear to engage. Organisationally-derived practice clusters, categorised as systemic, project and knowledge construction practices, relate to tasks identified on the job description. Data analysis also revealed four clusters of agency-derived practice: navigation practices, legitimation practices, affirmation practices and motivation practices. As participants engage in both organisationally-derived and agency-derived practice clusters, they draw upon, and in turn develop, resources which I have grouped into resource clusters comprising knowledge resources and enabling resources, specifically support, guidance, feedback and confidence. The contribution of the research is its focus on the learning of a newly-formed community of practice. Specifically, I propose that to understand the learning of such a community, it is useful to focus on the complex dynamic between the practice clusters in which the members engage and the resource clusters developed and drawn upon. The influence of both individual and organisational factors should be considered, and whilst neither should be given priority, it is likely that the individual will be more proactive, particularly in seeking out support, than a member of an established community of practice.

Bibliographic note

Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2009.