Workplace 'learning' and adult education

Messy objects, blurry maps and making difference


  • Tara Fenwick University of Stirling, Scotland



Workplace, learning theory, multiple ontologies


This article reviews diverse representations of learning evident among published accounts of workplace learning across fields such as adult education, human resource development, management and organisation studies. The discussion critically addresses the question of how to mediate a multiplicity of definitional, ideological and purposive orientations. The argument here is that the issue is not perspectival, but ontological. The critical problem lies in mistaking learning as a single object when in fact it is enacted as multiple objects, as very different things in different logics of study and practice. Particularly in the contested arena of work as a site of economic conflict and production, learning needs to be appreciated as a messy object, existing in different states, or perhaps a series of different objects that are patched together through some manufactured linkages.


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How to Cite

Fenwick, T. (2010). Workplace ’learning’ and adult education: Messy objects, blurry maps and making difference. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 1(1-2), 79–95.