Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 4 1999, page 27-47.
English resume

Education, training and the transformation of work

Practice, reflection and learning

Christian Helms Jørgensen

The article discusses the relation between school based learning of workers and changes in the organization of their work in the workplace. The question is how school based learning can contribute to improvements in the organization of work for the employees in traditional taylorist industries.

The empirical basis for the article is a number of evaluations of training schemes and development programmes carried out in the Danish meat industry with the purpose of changing the taylorist organization of work. The theoretical framework is on the one hand the theory of social practice of Giddens and Bourdieu, and on the other theories of practice related learning of Jean Lave and Donald Schön.

The article first emphasises that the educational institution and the workplace are two separate and different learning environments. It criticises the naive idea - common in the educational system - that changes of social practice in the workplace will occur as a direct result of school based learning. This idea rests on the assumption that human action is a direct result of conscious and rational intentions.

In contrast to this the article considers social practice to be determined by the workplace culture and the habitus of the employees. The culture is both medium for the reproduction of the current social practice, and at the same time it provides the means for the creative resistance and social imagination of the workers. The article points out a number of inherent contradictions in the culture and it sees herein a potential for learning.

The article goes on to consider strengths and weaknesses of Lave and Wenger´s theory of learning in social practice. In contrast to this theory, the article stresses that learning requires a break with the constraints and limits of the workplace, and thus to acknowledge the potential of the school to encourage reflection and selfreflection.

The school can constitute a liberated space where the compulsions and action orientation of the workplace is suspended, and the development of social imagination is encouraged. Training and education that aims at a transforming of the organization of work faces a paradox. On the one hand reflection on action and selfreflection requires a distance to the constraints of the workplace. But on the other hand changing the organization of work in the workplace requires that reflection be closely connected to practice in the workplace.

Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)




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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt