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Older and wiser?: workplace learning from the perspective of experienced employees

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This paper explores the (changing) role of older, experienced employees in the workplace in terms of their own needs and opportunities for learning and in the context of changing organizational expectations. It draws on Lave and Wenger's (1991) theory of situated learning and the notion of 'learning as participation' as starting points for examining the types of learning opportunities experienced by older workers. The discussion relates the nature of such opportunities to the changing workplace contexts in which employees are located. The article presents illustrative data from a recent research project that focused on how older experienced workers learn at work in two contrasting organizations. A brief review of literature is provided, which discusses the changing nature of work and the implications for learning. The paper then describes and contrasts the sites from which the data presented in this paper were collected, and the data collection methods that have been utilised. An analysis of the research data is presented and the authors discuss what the evidence reveals about the types of learning opportunities older employees are experiencing and how they make sense of them. The analysis suggests that from the perspective of experienced employees, factors such as organizational culture and history, the way jobs are designed and work is organized, and the way people are managed and their performance is judged, help explain the lived realities of workplace learning and provide messages for enhancing workforce development. The paper argues that contrasting forms of work organization and approaches to managing employees are likely to generate different learning environments and opportunities for workplace learning. It concludes by calling for more empirical research to explore the relationship between work organization and learning and to increase understanding of the implications for what and how different groups of employees learn at work.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2005

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