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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Conceptions of instruction in the workplace Beno, Jane E.


This research project investigated the question, What are the qualitatively different conceptions of instruction held by instructors of adults in the workplace? The research approach of phenomenography was used to discover how instructors of adults interpreted their instructional experiences. The sample studied consisted of twenty-two members of the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development who were trainers in various workplace settings. The respondents' understandings of instruction were sought through semi-structured interviews that focused on one of their instructional experiences. Three conceptions were found through an iterative process of examining units of meaning in the context of the individual interview and the context of all the interviews. The global meaning of each conception is: instruction is (a) imparting information to learners who receive and apply it on the job (Transmission Conception), (b) assisting learners to share and apply ideas and experiences (Enablement Conception), and (c) involving learners in an experiential process of discovering and constructing meaning (Constructive Conception). The structure of each conception was then analyzed to maximize the differences among them. Several findings emerged: (a) each conception had several components that were more clearly about learning than about instruction; (b) all the conceptions had one structural component that was the same - learning involves applying new knowledge on the job -suggesting that this may be an essential component of instruction in the workplace; and (c)two characteristics of meaning and connectedness appear to divide the conceptions placing the Transmission and Enablement Conceptions on one side and the Constructive Conception on the other. It was concluded that (a) there are more than the two dichotomous ways of viewing the instruction of adults that is suggested in the literature (teacher-controlled and collaborative); (b) there appears to be a generic conception of instruction common to many settings, that instruction is about transmitting information; (c) understandings of knowledge are related to conceptions of instruction; and (d) the context in which instruction occurs is a framing factor for thinking about instruction. The set of conceptions that was found can be used to study instructors' thinking about instruction in other settings as well as for their training and ongoing development.

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