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Learning Layers after the Aachen Integration meeting – Part 3: The Aachen Theory Camp (working group)

April 10th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

My previous posts to this series have focused on the the Aachen Integration Meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project. Part one gave an overview on the results of the Integration Meeting. Part two provided insights into the plenary session of the Aachen Theory Camp (a special event in the meeting). This post gives a report on the results of group work – Working Group 1 on Workplace learning. 

(I am much obliged to Gilbert Peffer who took photos of the flipcharts and Debbie Holley who took minutes on the spot – yet the accents and conclusions are mine.)

I would summarise our work with the following points:

a) The task: We discussed the presentations of the plenary and the way in which the different perspectives (or schools of thought) can be taken into account in the LL project. In this context we acknowledged the diverse positions, frameworks, and theories – some contrasting each other whilst others being complementary to each other. We also noted that some are more underpinned with empirical work whilst others were at higher level of abstraction. From these starting points we worked towards a joint understanding, how to make good use of the different background theories.

b) Approach to theory v.s. theories : We debated the issue ‘unified vs. pluralist view(s)’ as possible way(s) forward. We drew attention to the fact that some of the theories/concepts were not addressing conflicts of interest (or power relations) in working life. As a contrast, others saw them as key issues. Therefore, some theories provide a basis for ‘management tools’ whilst others give insights into conflicts that prevent innovations or lead to unexpected consequences. Taking such tensions into account we pointed to possibilities for drawing together the work from case studies or surveys, from qualitative or quantitative perspectives.

c) Implications for methodology v.s. methodologies: In this context we discussed the parallel use of data from the empirical studies of WP1 and from participative co-design processes and stakeholder talks. We also discussed, in which way the LL project can clarify its commitment or affiliation to ‘action research’ (as indicated in the deliverable of the WP7).  We noted that there are conceptual and epistemological tensions between ‘design research’ and (classical) ‘action research’ that are being debated in the literature. We also noted that there are German conceptualised traditions of ‘accompanying research’ (Begleitforschung) that refer to innovation programmes on Work & Technology or to model/pilot projects in vocational education and training(VET) that are less known elsewhere.

d) The issues of Intervention and Impact: In this context we had a discussion, in what ways the LL project is expected to show impact as Research, Technology & Development (RTD) project. We all agreed that there was a consensus on working with participative design processes and the interventions were essential for the knowledge development approach. However, there were differences between university traditions and/or evaluation procedures, to what extent researches should prioritise impact on theoretical level (academic publishing) or impact on practice (getting evidence on project-generated changes in working life).

e) The issue of desired outcomes in the field: In this context we discussed the prospect of changing attitudes to knowledge sharing. Here the key issues were “tolerance of uncertainty”, “willing to share” and “ability to share knowledge”. The strategies to promote such changes were linked to phrases ‘mindlines not guidelines’ (in the healthcare sector) and to the capability for social shaping of work, technology and environment (Gestaltungsorientierung) in the construction sector. In this way we tried to link the efforts to promote new competences/ capabilities in using Web 2.0 technologies (in the context of work or workplace learning) to the empowerment of users.

f) The conclusion: The group supported the initiative to continue with Theory Camp session(s) in the Bremen consortium meeting. We proposed the following title: “The Impact of the Learning Layers project on Theory and Practice”. We discussed some ideas that can be taken as topics or cross-cutting themes:

  • Connections between learning processes at the level of teams/ groups, organisations, networks, clusters and (‘learning’) regions;
  • Readiness for sharing knowledge; sharing in networks and/or in multiple networks;
  • Promoting new capabilities – the role of networks, organisations, teams and peers;
  • The role of intervention research approaches (action research, accompanying research, design research etc.) in working with and conceptualising such issues.

This is as far as we got in Aachen. The discussion on the follow-up is going on.

More posts to come on the next steps …

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