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Work Process Knowledge

Boreham and colleagues (2002) have examined issues concerning the use of work process knowledge at work in Nicholas Boreham, Renan Samurcay and Martin Fischer (eds) (2002) Work Process Knowledge, London: Routledge. For a fuller account of the issues covered in the book, see review. The book represents an attempt to foreground the importance of work process knowledge in understanding processes of organisational change, but the issues are also debated in the following publications:

  • Nicholas Boreham, Renan Samurcay and Martin Fischer (eds) (2002) Work Process Knowledge, London: Routledge.
  • Boreham, N. (2004) Orienting the work-based curriculum towards work process knowledge: a rationale and a German case study. Studies in Continuing Education, 26, pp. 209-227. Also downloadable from the author's site. The paper outlines principles for constructing a work-based curriculum when work process knowledge is a desired outcome. These are illustrated by a case study of a vocational curriculum currently being adopted by a leading volume car manufacturer in Germany.
  • Boreham, Nick and Morgan, Colin (2004) A socio-cultural analysis of organizational learning, Oxford Review of Education, 30, pp. 307-325. Also downloadable from the author's site. This article reports a three-year empirical investigation into organisational learning in a large industrial complex, with the aim of clarifying the practices of organisational learning and interpreting them within sociocultural learning theory. A sociocultural model is proposed which identifies dialogue as the fundamental process by which organisations learn. 'Three relational practices are analysed in detail: opening space for the creation of shared meaning, reconstituting power relationships and providing cultural tools to mediate learning.... The theoretical requirement that adult learning must be autonomous is reconciled with the concept of collective learning in pursuit of organisational goals by rejecting the notion of an individually-contained self in favour of a relational concept of the self, in which autonomy is achieved by building relationships with others’ (p. 308).
  • Griffiths, T. and Guile, D. (2003) A Connective Model of Learning: the implications for work process knowledge, European Educational Research Journal, Volume 2, Number 1, 2003, 56-73. This article draws upon research in the field of Cultural Historical Activity Theory in order to provide a new theoretical and methodological framework for analysing work experience and identifying the social and cultural practices which support the production of new knowledge. The article describes the potential of a ‘connective model’ of learning as a way of reformulating and addressing questions of learning and knowledge development in and between different contexts. There are, for example, implications for the idea and development of ‘work process knowledge’.

Researchers from the TLRP Learning as Work project team, Nick Jewson, Alan Felstead, Alison Fuller, Konstantinos Kakavelakis and Lorna Unwin, produced a paper on
TLRP Transforming Knowledge and Skills: Reconfiguring the Productive System of A Local Authority (Learning as Work Research Paper, No. 10, June 2007). The paper draws on the analytical framework offered by the concept of ‘productive systems’ which shifts attention away from examining sites of work as self-standing units to one which places them in a configuration of relationships. The concept is used to track how the introduction of a call centre can reconfigure knowledge and skills from one part of the system to another. The empirical evidence for the paper draws from a case study of a call centre which was set up as the primary access point to services provided by a local authority in the Midlands. The paper argues that the productive system perspective highlights the ways in which this call centre facilitated the rationalization of organizational
procedures and practices in its back offices, while simultaneously promoting a degree of personalized service. The introduction of the call centre:

'entailed capturing control over aspects of the definition, development and transmission of knowledge, skills and practices that had previously been the preserve of specialist service departments. The execution of these tasks was then vested in generic customer care agents in the call centre. As a result, operators became familiar with a multiple, ever increasing and continuously changing body of practical knowledge relevant to the delivery of a range of diverse services. In short their expertise lay in what Boreham et al. (2002) have called ‘work process knowledge’. Skills once regarded as unique and specialized became the common currency of generic operators who had received limited training. These processes entailed not only the transfer of control over what constitutes relevant knowledge but also the redesign of job tasks' (Jewson et al., 2007, p. 30).