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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
2006 Awards for Excellence
The following article was selected for this years Outstanding Paper Award for Journal of Workplace Learning
The (unlikely) trajectory of learning in a salmon hatchery
Wolff-Michael RothUniversity of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
Purpose Sociocultural learning theories, usually premised on participation in some community, explain workplace learning well up to a certain extent. The paper aims to extend beyond these and to account for learning in repetitive and mundane work environments from a dialectical perspective.
Design/methodology/approach Based on a longitudinal ethnographic study of one salmon hatchery in Canada and the fish culturists that work there, theory (dialectics) is blended with empirical fieldwork (interview data, participant observation data, field notes). Codes that emerged were classified into categories that formed the basis for the tentative hypotheses.
Findings Two assertions are proposed concerning learning from a dialectical perspective: the dialectic of doing (actions might seem repetitive but are in fact always different and productive in nature) and the dialectic of understanding and explaining (practical understanding develops dialectically with conceptual understanding when the latter is subjected to scrutiny). These can account for learning in places that at first sight are not conducive to change and transformation. Research limitations/implications Using the proposed framework, researchers/management can no longer get at individual learning independent of collective learning, which simultaneously is the effect and cause of individual learning. That is, individual and collective are inseparable ontologically.
Practical implications The study suggests a need to rethink the nature and possibilities of learning in mundane work environments that are believed to be widespread.
Originality/value Approaches workplace learning from a dlalectical, hermeneutical perspective that is not widely appreciated. Affirms the dignity of workers.
Keywords Fish farming, Knowledge processes, Workplace learning
This article originally appeared in Volume 17 Number 4, 2005, Journal of Workplace Learning
The following articles were selected for this years Highly Commended Award
Learning from collaborative new product development projects
Facilitating conversational learning in a project team practice
Andrew J. Sense
These articles originally appeared in Volume 17 Number 3, 2005, Journal of Workplace Learning