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ERIC Number: EJ814651
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Oct
Pages: 17
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 14
ISSN: ISSN-1074-9039
Using Activity Theory to Understand How People Learn to Negotiate the Conditions of Work
Worthen, Helena
Mind, Culture, and Activity, v15 n4 p322-338 Oct 2008
In a typical workplace in the United States, two knowledge-producing activity systems are in motion. Each produces knowledge about how to do the work of that workplace, but they are differently motivated: one toward productivity, and the other toward earning a living. The conflict between these two systems is addressed through the process of negotiation. A.N. Leont'ev's insight on the power of motive to shape an activity system through which consciousness is constructed provides direction for exploring how people learn to negotiate their conditions of work. Observations and interviews conducted in the course of my work as a union-based and then a university-based labor educator suggest that negotiating knowledge (NK) is similar to work process knowledge in that it is useful for the work that is being done, has a theoretical dimension, and is generated by problem solving. However, because it is generated through the second activity system, it differs from work process knowledge in its perspective. Characterizing NK makes it easier to recognize and enables research into its creation, which in turn can inform the practice of labor education. Examples considered in this article include a grocery warehouse, steel mill, cleaning company, federal office, an apartment building, public school, and musical instrument factory. (Contains 3 figures.)
Routledge. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois; Indiana; United States