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Workplace Learning Across Boundaries : An interview study on professional development and identity formation in intercultural work contexts

By Maria Alphonce


In this thesis I discuss workplace learning during international assignments in a variety of work sectors. In addition to normal adjustments to a new workplace, foreign language acquisition and cultural adaptation are necessary. By collecting and analyzing narratives of a group of Swedish professionals with international work assignments, I have found some regularities and variations of workplace learning as well as some significant effects that these assignments had on their identity. Recommendations are given to providers of preparatory courses for international work assignments as well as sending organizations and employers. The main finding is that workplace learning for international workers follows a trajectory starting already long before departure and continues throughout different phases of the assignment. It also has effects on work life after the return to one’s home culture. The learning resulting from the work assignment affected all areas of life (not only work life) and contributed towards an intercultural identity. This kind of assignment often included networking with several organizations and groups of people of varying nationalities. Instead of working towards becoming full members of one work community, the participants in this study often found themselves in the peripheries of multiple ones. This peripheral albeit influential situation provided many opportunities for learning, both for the individual and the groups they work with. In this way, these international workers have the potential to be agents of change and development in all work communities they relate to.

Topics: intercultural competence, intercultural identity, communities of practice, cultural adaptation, development work, workplace learning, Learning, Lärande
Publisher: Linköpings universitet, Pedagogik och vuxnas lärande
Year: 2015
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