02 SES 06 B, Learning in the Workplace: Language and Skills Transfer
The paper focuses on the notion of the learning space at work and discusses the extent to which its different configurations allow employees to exercise and develop their language and literacy skills across various contexts and spaces. The significance of employing language, communication and literacy skills in the workplace and vocational education and training (VET) settings has been identified as related both to employees’ biographical life experiences and their workplace learning as well as career and life chances. The complexities of workplace learning have been reflected in the changing requirements for skills development and its interplay with the changing nature of the learning space at work (Malloch et al., Evans, 2009, Guile, 2010). Contemporary workplaces are now increasingly demanding that their employees have satisfactory levels of literacy and communication skills and language skills, including proficiency in foreign languages (Evans et al, 2011, Kersh et al., 2012, Liddicoat, A. and Scarino, 2013). An emerging agenda for researching work, learning and agency has been strongly underpinned by issues such as globalisation, international comparisons and the knowledge-based economy (Malloch et al., Guile, 2010, Zarifis and Gravani, 2013).
This paper argues that language as a social practice enables learners/employees to navigate a range of spaces (such as physical, virtual or informal) and apply their skills not only within but across a variety of contexts and spaces. Specifically, the paper seeks to investigate the extent to which different configurations of language and literacy skills facilitate the achievement of agency and contribute to lifelong learning in a range of spaces and contexts. The learning space is perceived as a combination or overlap of a range of components, such as physical space, learning contexts and environments, formal/informal learning and virtual learning. Our case studies have indicated that, in the context of VET and workplace settings, transferring knowledge through active use of language enables learners/employees to exercise their agency and facilitates their learning success.
This paper draws on findings from an EU-funded TEMPUS project, ‘Lifelong Language Learning University Centre Network for New Career Opportunities and Personal Development’, as well as on data gathered from a range of national and international projects undertaken in Russia and England, such as the ESRC-funded projects ‘Adult Basic Skills’ and ‘Impact of Poor English and Maths Skills on English Employers’ carried out at the UCL Institute of Education. Case studies undertaken across different occupational sectors in a range of UK workplaces (including, for example, the Fire and Rescue Service, and the Engineering and Social Care sectors) have indicated ways in which learners and employees use their language and communication skills which enable them to navigate and learn across a range of boundary spaces that emerge from different practices and experiences. Similarly, in Russia, case studies have been undertaken across a range of occupational sectors, such as healthcare and creative and cultural industries, specifically looking at the ways that foreign language (English) and communication skills enable employees to learn across different spaces and contexts.
This research compares findings cross-nationally, and discusses the ways different configurations of language and literacy skills facilitate the achievement of agency and contribute to lifelong learning in a range of spaces and contexts. This paper draws upon rich sources of workplace learning theories and international/national research projects in order to contribute to knowledge of the interrelationships between workplaces and individuals in the modern globalised world and to advance our understanding of the notion of workplace learning internationally.
Evans, K., Hodkinson, P., Rainbird, H., & Unwin, L. (2006). Improving Workplace Learning. New York: Routledge. Evans, K. (2009). Learning, Work and Social Responsibility. Springer: Dordrecht. Evans, K., Waite, E., & Kersh, N. (2011). Towards a social ecology of adult learning in and through the workplace. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B. N. O’Connor (Eds.), The Sage Handbook on Workplace Learning (pp. 356–370). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Guile, D. (2010). The learning challenge of the knowledge economy. Rotterdam: Sense Kersh, N.,Waite E. and Evans K (2012) The Spatial Dimensions of Workplace Learning: Acquiring Literacy and Numeracy Skills within the Workplace. In: R. Brooks et al (eds) Changing Spaces of Education: New Perspectives on the Nature of Learning, Routledge: 182-204 Liddicoat, A. and Scarino, A. (2013) Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning, Wiley-Blackwell Malloch, M. , Cairns., Evans, K. and O’Connor B. (Eds.). (2011) The Sage Handbook on Workplace Learning (pp. 3–16). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Zarifis, G. and Gravani, M (Eds.). (2013) Challenging the “European Area of Lifelong Learning.” Dordrecht: Springer.
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