Self-directed learning and apprentices: a constructivist grounded study

Doctorate other than PhD

Pearce, Damien Phillip. 2015. Self-directed learning and apprentices: a constructivist grounded study. Doctorate other than PhD Doctor of Education. University of Southern Queensland.

Self-directed learning and apprentices: a constructivist grounded study

TypeDoctorate other than PhD
AuthorPearce, Damien Phillip
SupervisorDawson, Mark
Jones, Janice
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Education
Number of Pages210

Developing the capacity of learners to be self-directed is beneficial for both individual workers and economies alike. This study investigates the development of capability for self-directed learning in a group of apprentices in the building and construction industry and suggests that such capability is best developed in the early years of entry
into the workforce. For tradespersons this time is during their apprenticeship.
The purpose of this study was to develop a deep understanding of how apprentices develop the capacity to be self-directed learners. The aim was to develop a substantive
theory that illuminated and provided insight into this phenomenon.
The methodology of constructivist grounded theory was used to conduct the study. A sample size of 13 participants in the building and construction industry was recruited.
This included apprentices who were employed by a group training organisation (GTO) and a representation of their host employers and vocational teachers located within the
southern New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory geographic regions.
The substantive theory presented in this dissertation makes a contribution to knowledge of value to apprentices, employers, vocational teachers and others who seek to develop an understanding of the process of learning and development associated with apprenticeships and vocational and professional education more broadly.

The substantive theory was achieved through discovering, describing, analyzing abstracting and explaining how apprentices moved through the phases (or categories) of committing effort, experiencing work, confirming value, and heightening motivation towards becoming self-directed learners. The substantive theory reveals that as the
apprentices progressed through these phases they were constantly engaged in decision making processes, evaluating and re-evaluating experiences throughout their
apprenticeship. The evaluation outcomes could be positive or negative and were dependent upon the expectancies that the apprentices placed on themselves as well as their interpretation of the expectancies placed on them by others.
In this study the manner in which the various conceptual elements, processes and categories connect revolves around the apprentices’ experiences of sponsorship. Sponsorship is the term used to describe the more experienced or confident other who has both a personal and professional interest in the apprentice’s development and uses their influence to create a safe learning environment to enable the apprentice to develop expertise.
The importance of the management of the learning environment proved critical, as suitable learning contexts do not appear by accident. In this study it emerged that the
sponsor was the most important factor determining the quality of the learning environment. Effective sponsors were able to manage the learning context in a manner
where the apprentice felt safe to ask questions, make mistakes, develop expertise and eventually accept responsibility, be autonomous and solve complex problems. Indeed, the apprentices became tradespeople who were not only competent but were true self directed learners.
By managing this learning context, the sponsor created an environment that enabled the intrinsic motivation of the apprentice to drive their own growth and development
towards becoming self-directed learners. When the sponsor creates a workplace where learning thrives, the apprentice begins to develop both competence and confidence.
Increasingly, the apprentice begins to consolidate a durable sense of vocational identity. More and more others (both within and outside the immediate workplace)begin to recognise the apprentice as a legitimate member of the trade. Over time, with the development of expertise—as the apprentice begins to accept more and more responsibility for their own learning, and with encouragement and opportunity from the sponsor—they begin to reflect on their own learning. Increasingly and steadily they become self-directed learners.

Keywordsself-directed learning; apprentices; building and construction industry
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390303. Higher education
390409. Learning sciences
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts
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