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Development engineers' work and learning as shared practice

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The field of workplace learning lacks empirical studies that view workplace practices as places for learning and see these practices in a critical light. Accordingly, the aim of this study is, first, to describe examples of everyday shared practice and consider what kinds of various conflicting aims and demands exist in it. Second, the purpose is to explore what and how it is possible to learn through these shared practices in the area of design and development work. The empirical material consists of ethnographic observations made in two organizations in Finland. Three thematic lines were extracted from field notes and transcribed work talk on the basis of ethnographic and adapted membership categorization analysis. They suggest that the maintenance of a good atmosphere was an important component of shared practice and learning through it. Shared practice was also found to be situated and open-ended and it contained conflicts and contradictory aims. The findings reported here suggest that to survive, everyday work involves doing and learning, and sometimes disagreeing. Conflicts seem to strengthen a team's ability to co-operate and to sustain functional social relations. Attention should thus be paid to the constantly changing processes of work and to situational analyses of the different options within practice provided by the various aims of the work itself and the tasks done in accordance with those aims.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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