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Getting the Measure of Workplace Learning: The Conceptual and Methodological Challenges Faced by Survey Researchers Alan Felstead
Outline of Talk Importance & Topicality of Learning Two Competing Conceptualisations of Learning Using Concepts to Inform Survey Design 4. Some Survey Results
Topicality of Learning • European level: 1996 European Year of • Lifelong Learning; 2000 Lisbon goals for • employment; subsequent reports & • resolutions • National level: 1998 Learning Age; • 1998-2000 National Skills Task Force; • 2000-01 Cabinet Office on learning; • Skills Strategy in 2003; Leitch in 2004-06
Conceptualisations of Learning Acquisition Metaphor • human mind stocked with ideas • individual stockroom management • individual possession/endowments 2. Participation Metaphor • without action there can be no learning • embodied action is embedded in context • learning is borne out of social interaction
Empirical Face of Concepts Acquisition Metaphor • surveys of: qualifications held; years in education;attendance on training courses/events • recognition of other ways of learning BUT captured by frequency/exposure times 2. Participation Metaphor • case studies of how work is done & what is most effective at enhancing performance • BUT recognition that measurement may be possible
Nature of Learning at Work Survey • Collaborative venture with NIACE • Additional module added to Adult Participation in Learning Survey • Module aimed to use ‘participation’ metaphor to: • reveal sources of learning associated with everyday work experience • identify their relative importance • map their distribution & relationship to the organisational environment
Nature of LAWS (cont.) • Part of Omnibus Survey carried out • every week by RSGB • Face-to-face interviews with adults >16 • in their homes during February 2004 • Sample comprises 1,943 employees, • selected randomly by address • All results weighted to reflect adult • population
Key Question on Learning ‘To what extent have the following activities helped you to learn to do your job better?’ 10 activities listed (5-point scale: a great deal of help; quite a lot of help; of some help; a little help; of no help at all all)
Putting Learning in Context • Previous studies have traced links between • workplace context and training/skills • But few have examined the links between • learning and the context of work • Data on both within the same survey has • been wanting • … until the Learning at Work Survey!
Putting Learning in Context (cont.) • Technical = multiple regression • Dependent variable = learning scores • (ACQ) & (PART) • Independent variables = IND_INF, • GRP_INF, INVOLVE & LINE_MAN • Control variables = age, sex, occupation, • country, marital status
Conclusion • Rhetorical shift with discussions centring on learning not training • Existing measures rooted in ‘learning as acquisition’ tradition (qualifications, years in education, training events) • LAWS gives greater weight to ‘learning as participation’ metaphor; & focuses on relative impact that activities have on employee performance