Contradictions in Expansive Learning: Towards a Critical Analysis of Self-dependent Forms of Learning in Relation to Contemporary Socio-technological Change

Ines Langemeyer


Current policies to expand and "flexibilise" labour markets are encapsulated in the drive to ensure "employability". To achieve this "employability", workers and the unemployed are encouraged to participate in "life-long learning". In this context, the traditional understanding of education as instructional pedagogy is increasingly replaced by learner-centred approaches which allow more autonomy and individuality within the actual learning process and demand greater personal (learner) responsibility for progress and success. Such self-dependent learning might seem to provide a promising alternative to traditional schooling—which often proves contradictory in producing a rather passive attitude among the learners by undermining motivation. But the challenges of those "new" forms of learning have turned out to be contradictory as well. This article seeks to clarify how to take account of these contradictions. Theoretically, it proceeds on the basis of a discussion of Klaus HOLZKAMP's "subject science of learning" and Yrjö ENGESTRÖM's activity theory. Both approaches are centred around an idea of "expansive learning", and each stresses the interrelation between individual learning processes and external development as a route towards extending action possibilities and one's power to act. But they differ significantly on the matter of contradictions. For HOLZKAMP contradictions are considered an obstruction or hindrance for learning, while for ENGESTRÖM they are a starting point for problem solving and development. In the blank spaces within and between these theories, however, a slightly different approach to expansive learning is developed. Two case studies, that were part of a larger enquiry on a vocational training program for IT-specialists (LANGEMEYER 2005a), are used to enhance the comprehension of contradictions in relation to learning, and to exemplify an analysis of the current changes in education processes.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0601127


expansive learning; work-based learning; contradictions; self-management; responsibility; participation; cooperation; situatedness; competence development

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Copyright (c) 2006 Ines Langemeyer

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