FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)


ISSUES OF POWER AND EXCLUSION (link to itslearning)

Hi there,

After reviewing many of the articles for this segment of the course, I would like to share some thoughts on how issues of power and exclusions have been presented.

The first thing I noticed is that – when addressing such issues – the articles contextualize them in the work and learning environment of western economies. With the exception of Bennel’s article, the other articles do not deal with “power and exclusion” as factors of economic and social imbalances at the level of the globalized economy. This role is limited to workplace dynamics (mainly western) and to the impact on the delivery of on-the-job training within learning communities at work.

Across the articles, one finds the following definitions of “power” :

In Berrings et al. (Conceptualising On-the-job Learning Styles. Human Resource Development Review)

“Poell and van Moorsel (1998) define the learning climate as follows: “The temporary manifestation of the dominant norms, insights and rules regarding learning of a group, department or organization in shared practices in the field of learning which implicitly influences the learning activities employees undertake” (p. 35).” (p. 382)

In Billet (Co-participation at work)”power” is recognized as having an influence on affordances and co-participation in communities of practice. He says, citing others, that “the invitational qualities of the workplace are far from benign or evenly distributed. They are socially determined and are the product of power relations (Fenwick, 2001, Solomon, 1999).” (p.200)

In Defreitas (Segmented labor) there is a clear description of how segmented labor theory informs issues of power and exclusion.

In Huzzard (Communities of domination), power is discussed in its “managerial” brand, although the article makes an attempt at defining the different variations that can be observed in power. He, for example, criticizes the absence of attention for the power dimension in the original discussion on community of practices [ “the power dimension was arguably lost in a process whereby the communities of practice became “popularised” to appeal to a management audience (Brown and Duguid, 1991).” (p. 352) ]

He also offers the following definitions, that I find interesting as they help my understanding of these issues:

General definition of power: power, loosely, can be understood as the capacity of individuals to exert their will over others(Buchanan and Badham, 1999).(p.353)

Radical view of power: Lukes’ “radical” view on power (Lukes, 1974), sees organisations as arenas of domination whereby the powerful are in control of socialisation processes and political agendas.[…] Power, accordingly, can be exercised subconsciously – disconnected from any notion of intent. (p.354)

Relational  view: this view would situate power at the interface of work relations.

He also recognizes the role of language in power-related issues:

“In unequal power relations, the dominant party may actively choose to communicate or construct reality by selecting certain linguistic formations, or may simply communicate in the taken-for-granted formations which seem appropriate in context.”(p. 355)
In Wojecki‘s article (What’s identity got to do with it) collaborative learning and relational trust practices in workplace learning are presented as ways to re-direct power issues:

“Formal learning and vocational educational practices predominantly exercise an extraordinary amount of power in the structuring of training programmes, thus shaping imbalanced power relationships, particularly between educators and adult learners.” (p.178)

As we move forward with our group assignment, I hope that the above will serve as a base for further discussion within our group.

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