Term Paper: Adult Education Within Human Resources

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[. . .] Meanwhile, a scholarly and well-thought-out piece in Adult Education Quarterly (Glastra, et al., 2004), speaks to many issues within the context of "Lifelong Learning" (LLL), and sees the big picture of today's workplace and learning dynamics. Indeed, the article, which was published in August, is entitled, "Lifelong Learning as Transitional Learning," and emphasizes from the outset that "Globalization and individualization have radically changed both the economic system and the personal life world in industrial or postindustrial nation-states."

Building a good life, Glastra explains, "has become an individual responsibility demanding reflexivity and skills." How do the present approaches with reference to LLL "relate to the requirements of a competitive economy, on one hand, and the good life on the other hand," Glastra asks. And moreover, how does the emerging globalization of workplace effect the willingness and/or ability of employers to encourage workplace learning?

Glastra writes (291) that "Creating the learning company and developing lifelong learning with a view to economic competitiveness have become the gospel of the 'knowledge economy'." But what this new global competitiveness does, the article explains, is put "individuals...more than ever, on their own in facing the speed and scope of changes in a globalizing information society." The "traditional" social structure - social class and gender relations - together with cultural aspects of life - religion, scientific truth, civic interactivity - in terms of "leading one's life," Glastra asserts, "are eroding. In the place of those traditional values and issues, the new "postmodern imperative" is "individual distinction." If this is true, it seems all the more relevant to the new workplace values that individual growth (i.e., in particular, adult learning) be put high on the agenda for the visionary, alert HR person, when it comes to workplace learning. Adults, as noted earlier in the literature, are life directed.

Just what is globalization - and how does today's adult worker - who seeks growth through knowledge - fit in?

The authors put forward the notion that globalization is "...a multifaceted, historical development... [which] builds on a history of international relations between nation-states... [and] is new in the sense of the growing extensiveness of social networks involved, the intensity and speed of flows and interconnections..."

Globalization is wrapped up on the "increase in mobility as witnessed, for example, in the international financial markets, on the Internet, and in migration processes." A key in understanding this shift in the interaction between world markets is in becoming aware of "the radically increased mobility of capital," and the capacity of capital to "bypass devalued peoples and territories, its general disengagement with regard to labor, and the growth of social inequality."

The article explains that since today information and knowledge is so readily available, and moves with the speed of light on the Internet, this dynamic "gives rise to learning as a permanent feature of social life." Globalization confronts nations, companies and people with "learning challenges as they struggle to cope within rapidly changing and unstable global and local environments."

Learning may be a permanent feature of social life, but the authors also say that individuals "must resolve systemic and institutional frictions essentially on their own," which doesn't portend a smooth transition from being out of the learning loop into a very productive workplace learning situation.

Challenges to the adult who wishes to become a LLL as part of one's job.

The proof in the "pudding" of Glastra's presentation - in terms of individuals being more and more isolated in this global economy - is presented by the following generalizations (widely held though as truths): a) the "decline of political participation of citizens in parliamentary democracy"; b) "the erosion of the nuclear family"; c) "the withering away of the standard biography"; d) the incorporation of women in the labor process"; e) and the "individual labor contracts."

When people come to a point where they have lost their faith in "traditional cultural guidelines" (work, home, church, play), they face "the tyranny of choice," which means they can no longer be certain of the consequences "of their choices in life." This condition leads naturally to insecurity, and a loss of personal identity, the article continues. Since work organizations and the "unpredictability of life" take away a person's flexibility, people then must become individuals again by "constructing or reconstructing their own biographies and life courses."

And so, with that background, the authors begin getting specific about HR, LLL, and work-based learning (296): "The development, storage, distribution, and deployment of professional knowledge and cultural intelligence emerge as the core strategic element in the survival or work organizations." Employees who are educated to a higher level than the average worker "need to be employable for a broad range of non-routine and developmental tasks." In other words, along with more learning, more education, the worker who wants to fully become part of the new global marketplace must also be flexible. They may become "flex-time" employees, moving from full time to part time as corporate interests dictate; and moreover, they will be "more frequently off the job... [either] for refreshing their knowledge and skills..." Or resulting from unemployment.

And for the boss, executives and company stockholders, they must learn how to handle the employee when hiring not just hands but "the head, the heart, and the spirit" of an employee because "what is hard to copy is also hard to manage..."

The boss must also discover newer and better ways to "accommodate the unruly life world that develops inside their work organizations" simply because the new, educated employee has become a "storehouse of authenticity," a "consumer of tasks and jobs," and has also become an individual "seeing personal meaning" in his work.

An Article in Studies in the Education of Adults - "The significance of individual biography in workplacelearning."

The research on learning in the workplace over the past fifteen or so years has focused upon a viewpoint that is organization or social, say the authors of this scholarly piece (Hodkinson, et al., 2004). And to begin with, the authors establish the fact that learning "is not the primary activity" in workplaces, so, the learning needs of workers is "not a high priority" for employers.

That said the article points to a pair of approaches that have been used in studying workplace learning dynamics. One is studying how learning through the workplace is "belonging to communities of practice," and hence the learning entails becoming "a full member" in the process. The second method of studying learning in the workplace involves "stressing the learning within and between activity systems," as the employee faces "internal and external contradictions and tensions." The authors indicate that they will focus in this article on similarities between the two approaches.

The authors say learning is viewed (too often) as "a ubiquitous process, often subconsciously undertaken" during normal working situations. And further, there is today in the workplace a need for an approach that can "dialectically link" the worker and the social structure. That link will provide the possibility of avoiding the "dangers of over-emphasizing individual agency in relation to the person, and social structures in relation to the contexts where they work and learn."

What is also needed, the authors' research indicates, that when studies highlight how major shifts in perspective and work attitudes are achieved with certain types of intervention in the workplace, those studies "seldom consider...the context of the prior learning [of the worker] and the characteristics of the actors." More attention should be paid to the knowledge an adult worker has picked up along the way, because it "comes into play at significant points" in the workplace environment.

The authors present four "sets of learning processes" to point out the complexity and difficult nature of the "place of the individual in the workplace learning" dynamic: 1) Workers/learners bring prior knowledge, understanding and skills with them, which can contribute to their future work and learning; 2) The habitus of workers, including their dispositions towards work, career and learning, influence the ways in which they construct and take advantage of opportunities for learning at work; 3) The values and dispositions of individual workers contribute to the co-production and reproduction of the communities of practice and/or organizational cultures and/or activity systems where they work; 4) Working and belonging to a workplace community contributes to the developing habitus and sense of identity of the workers themselves.

As to the conclusions of the authors, they make no bones about the fact that the worker/learners are "simultaneously part of the workplaces they inhabit, and separate from them." And it is "dangerously distorting to simplify workers/learners are representing agency," while the workplace setting "provides the structure." The significance of both "structure and agency within individual lives and dispositions," and within the workplaces they inhabit, shows the complexity of the overlapping types of interaction between the workplace and individual context.

The four overlapping types of interaction are: bringing prior abilities and experiences to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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