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Peripheral journeys: Learning and acceptance of probationary constables

Roger Harris (University of South Australia, Underdale, Australia)
Michele Simons (University of South Australia, Underdale, Australia)
Pam Carden (University of South Australia, Underdale, Australia)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 1 June 2004


In the 1990s, one of Australia's police services moved from a centralised, academy‐based system of training towards a more integrated model of professional development. As a consequence, probationary constables spent reduced time in the police academy (6 months) before moving into the workplace for 18 months of work‐based learning. This paper explores how those changes affected the ways in which probationary constables are viewed and accepted into the workforce. A useful model for this exploration is that of legitimate peripheral participation, as advocated by Lave and Wenger in 1991. Although Lave and Wenger acknowledge that peripherality, rather than being a negative term, allows for an understanding of inclusion into a community of practice, there is still a long journey to be travelled before full acceptance is accorded to the newcomer. By exploring the “voices” of the probationers and their senior officers, the conflicts and difficulties that arose during their work‐based probation and the negotiations required to help develop competent police officers, it is possible to trace the journey of probationary constables from periphery to a more central acceptance. This paper explores how the probationary constables were viewed and accepted into the workforce to become full and trusted members of a community of practice.



Harris, R., Simons, M. and Carden, P. (2004), "Peripheral journeys: Learning and acceptance of probationary constables", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 205-218.



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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited