To read this content please select one of the options below:

Learning about workplace learning and expertise from Jack: A discourse analytic study

Yew‐Jin Lee (National Institute of Education, Singapore)
Wolff‐Michael Roth (University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 1 June 2006




The purpose of this paper is to highlight some methodological problems concerning the neglect of participants' voices by workplace ethnographers and neglect of the highly interactional and co‐constructive nature of research interviewing. The study aims to use discourse analysis, to show the phenomena of workplace learning and expertise to be constituted in participants' talk.


From excerpts of natural talk and research interviews by fish culturists speaking about their learning in a salmon hatchery, discourse analysis is used to analyze how workplace learning and expertise are rhetorically performed.


The paper finds that fish culturists drew on two discursive repertoires/resources – school‐ and workplace‐based learning – to account for their learning and expertise. The main participant affirmed the primacy of interest and practical workplace experience in his job just as he presupposed a weak correlation between school‐based (theoretical) and workplace (practical) knowing. However, both kinds of learning were deemed important though articulating this view depended on the social contexts of its production.

Research limitations/implications

Discourse analysis does not establish immutable truths about workplace learning and expertise but rather it is used to understand how these are made accountable through talk in real‐time, that is, how the phenomenon is “done” by participants.

Practical implications

There is increased sensitivity when using ethnographic and interview methods. No method can avoid being theory‐laden in its conduct and reporting but discourse analysis perhaps does it better than its alternatives.


While some contributors to this journal have also approached workplace learning from a discursive perspective, this paper attempts to understand the phenomenon solely from participants' categories and interpretations.



Lee, Y. and Roth, W. (2006), "Learning about workplace learning and expertise from Jack: A discourse analytic study", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 205-219.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles