The aim of the paper is to advance understanding of in-service learning and skills sector trainee teachers’ learning and propose ways of improving their learning. A conceptual framework is developed by extending Billett’s (International Journal of Educational Research 47:232–240, 2008) conceptualisation of workplace learning, as a relationally interdependent process between the opportunities workplaces afford for activities and interactions and how individuals engage with these, to a third base of participation, the affordances of the initial teacher education course. Hager and Hodkinson’s (British Educational Research Journal 35:619–638, 2009) metaphor of ‘learning as becoming’ is used to conceptualise the ways trainees reconstruct learning in a continuous transactional process of boundary crossing between course and workplace. The findings of six longitudinal case studies of trainees’ development, and evidence from other studies, illustrate the complex interrelationships between LSS workplace affordances, course affordances and trainee characteristics and the ways in which trainees reconstruct learning in each setting. The experience of teaching and interacting with learners, interactions with colleagues, and access to workplace resources and training are important workplace affordances for learning. However, some trainees have limited access to these affordances. Teaching observations, course activities and experiences as a learner are significant course affordances. Trainees’ beliefs, prior experiences and dispositions vary and significantly influence their engagement with course and workplace affordances. It is proposed that better integration of course and workplace learning through guided participation in an intentional workplace curriculum and attention to the ways trainees choose to engage with this, together with the use of practical theorising has the potential to improve trainee learning
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