This chapter offers an explanation of the processes of learning that arises through individuals engaging in writing and for professional development purposes. It proposes that this learning arises through mimetic processes (i.e. observing, imitation, practice and monitoring) that are central to the thinking and acting that comprise the act of writing. These mimetic processes are foundational to human cognition, meaning-making and engagement in and outcomes of participation in goal-directed activities, such as writing. The account provided here is aligned with how these processes are or can be directed to worthwhile and purposeful goals, such as professional development. In all, mimetic learning is founded on both inter-and intra-psychological processes. That is, how individuals engage with the world beyond them (i.e. inter-psychologically) and also their cognitive, sensory and neural processes (i.e. intra-psychologically) when enacting goal-directed activities. Central here are foundational human processes associated with cognition and how humans engage in processes of construing what they experience and constructing knowledge from them. Such foundations are helpful for considering how learning arises through engaging in writing activities, and as such its contributions to individuals’ professional development.
This introductory chapter discusses the development of considerations about learning through work and perspectives of workplace learning that are currently emerging through research internationally. A key purpose here is to map recent developments in thinking about learning through and for work. When one also considers individuals’ needs to be learners as workers as they seek to secure continuity and development within their working life and social world, such perspectives help to inform how we might best organise, shape and appraise the character and processes of learning through and for work. This concern is never more important than when such learning is conceptualised simultaneously as processes of both social reproduction and transformation and of individual development and change. The chapter provides a bridge between existing contributions to our understanding about learning through work and the contributions offered in the following chapters. In doing so, it seeks to identify the strengths and the limitations of existing perspectives through theoretical and empirical work by focussing on the interdependent relations between the individual and social world in the processes of learning through and for work. Thus, it also foreshadows the analytic categories: (i) learning about self and agency; and (ii) learning about work tasks, that shape the structure of the book. In advancing these two bases as being particularly salient for elaborating understandings about learning for working life, the chapter first outlines the scope of the emerging interest in learning through work, as well as some of the purposes for and conceptions of learning through work. Next, procedural and conceptual developments that shape and reshape considerations of workplace learning are discussed. The chapter concludes by offering some parameters for workplace learning as a duality between what the workplace affords learners in terms of opportunities and support, and how individuals engage with these affordances as they learn through their experiences.
Recent studies of learning through work have included how professional identities are formed through participation in work. However, we need a more elaborated understanding of how professional identities are negotiated at times of rapid change in working practices. This chapter examines the personal strategies that vocational teachers adopt, and the professional identity negotiations that occur, in response to requirements to change professional practices. We report on a study in which open-ended narrative interviews were conducted with sixteen Finnish vocational teachers. From the teachers’ accounts, we identified distinct personal strategies that were adopted to engage with change. The strategies were labelled as follows: (i) professional development, (ii) passive accommodation, (iii) active participation, (iv) a balancing act, and (v) withdrawal. The strategies were aligned to the teachers’ individual concerns, and were bound up with the personal resources available in negotiating with the changing character of the work. An account of these strategies offers a new way of understanding how identities are negotiated through an active, personally-shaped process. The study also illuminates how to promote individuals’ management of the self and of learning at work.