Work and Learning - An Introduction

Bruce Spencer & Jennifer Kelly

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Work and Learning

An Introduction

By: Bruce Spencer and Jennifer Kelly

“Workplace learning” is fast becoming a subject of debate in academic disciplines that may seem to have little else in common. It comes up in economics, organizational science, management studies, innovation health care, and human-resource development.
Work and Learning is an overview of this emerging field. It will be of value to students across all disciplines that include “work and learning” within their purview.

ISBN 978-1-55077-232-6
Edition First
Year 2013
Page Count 130

$ 24.95


Workplace learning is an area where “context” and “perspective” have been seriously overlooked. It is also one where “material” interests (government, business, and labour) have largely prevailed. For this reason, there is a strong emphasis in this book on “framing” work and learning as a subdiscipline. The text will be most useful to readers who are able to stand back, set aside conventional suppositions, and explore new concepts and lines of argument.

Work and Learning challenges dominant perspectives and practices. However, it is the authors’ hope that the book will not so much provoke debate as serve as a foundation from which students (no matter what program of study they are pursuing) can move towards a deeper appreciation of the field.

While the text has a Canadian focus, it draws on global material and evidence – particularly journals and texts written in English. The last chapter specifically examines work and learning in the context of the global workplace.


  • To provide an analytical approach to the field;
  • To review the research and the literature;
  • To explore the various lines of argument that have been made;
  • To evaluate the available evidence; andTo explore the various lines of argument that have been made;
  • To reflect on the various areas for future inquiry.To explore the various lines of argument that have been made;

Table of Contents

1. Understanding the Human Resource Management/Corporate Connection

  • Introduction
  • HRM Perspectives
  • Globalization, Canada, and Productivity
  • Industrial and Post-Industrial Societies
  • Productivity Revisited
  • A Note on Human Capital Theory
  • “Our Employees are our Most Valuable Resource”
2. Organizational Culture and Organizational Learning
  • Learning Organizational Culture
  • The Pedagogics of Work and Learning
  • Learning for Whose Interests?
  • Reflections
3. The Learning Organization
  • Groups and Teams
  • Learning Organizations
  • Taylorism Revisited
  • Contingent/Precarious Work—The Intersection of Race and Gender
4. Workers’ and Unions’ Learning
  • Workers’ and Unions’ Learning at Work
  • Understanding Unions
  • Labour Education
  • Core Labour Education
  • New Developments in Labour Education
  • Reflections on Union Education
  • Employee Development Schemes
  • The Union View of EDS
  • The Impact of EDS
  • Union Action on EDS
  • Theoretical Approaches to Empowerment, Workplace Relations, and Learning
  • Conclusions on EDS
5. From School to Work ...
  • Schooling for Work
  • Education from the 1930s to the 1990s
  • The Hidden Curriculum
  • Neo-conservative Re-structuring from the 1990s
  • Political and Sociological Ideologies
  • Neo-conservative Ideology
  • Accountability—Standardized Testing
  • Learning to Labour
6. ... And Workplace Learning to School
  • An Example of the Use of PLAR
  • Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)
  • Credentialism, Adult Learning and Knowledge
  • Workplace Learning and PLAR
  • PLAR at Work
  • Summary on PLAR
  • Work and Learning in the Academy
7. Transitions, Gender, and Difference: Training and Skills
  • Transitions
  • Transitions: Technology and Training
  • Gender and Difference at Work
  • Culture and Difference
  • Skills and Training
  • Education for Economy
8. The Challenge of Democratizing Work and Learning in a Global Economy
  • Globalization and the “Economic South”
  • The Spectrum Sweater Factory Collapse
  • Last Nightshift in Savar
  • The Democratization of Work
  • Participatory Strategic HRM
  • Empowerment at Work: The Example of Mondragon
  • The Origins: Creating Jobs
  • Running the Co-operatives
  • The Co-operatives during Recession and Growth
  • The Lessons from Mondragon
  • Using the Example

About the Authors

Bruce Spencer
Athabasca University in Alberta

Bruce Spencer is a Professor at Athabasca University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies. He is Director of the Human Resources and Labour Relations (HRLR) program and teaches courses in adult education and HRLR. Recent publications include The Purposes of Adult Education and Unions and Learning in a Global Economy, both published by Thompson Educational Publishing.

Jennifer Kelly

Jennifer Kelly is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. Her research areas are race, racialization, and the histories of racialized communities. Her present work includes mapping the Alberta history of African Canadian and other racialized workers. Her other publications include: Under the Gaze: Learning to be Black in White Society and Borrowed Identities.