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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19164

Title: Learning as Socially Organized Practices: Chinese Immigrants Fitting into the Engineering Market in Canada
Authors: Shan, Hongxia
Advisor: Ng, Roxana
Department: Adult Education and Counselling Psychology
Keywords: immigration studies
adult learning
social construction of skill
social production of culture
institutional ethnography
Chinese immigrants
organization of engineering work
organization of engineering workforce
engineering in Canada
sociocultural learning
Issue Date: 25-Feb-2010
Abstract: My research studies immigrants’ learning experiences as socially organized practices. Informed by the sociocultural approach of learning and institutional ethnography, I treat learning as a material and relational phenomenon. I start by examining how fourteen Chinese immigrants learn to fit into the engineering market in Canada. I then trace the social discourses and relations that shape immigrants’ learning experiences, particularly their changing perceptions and practices and personal and professional investments. I contend that immigrants’ learning is produced through social processes of differentiation that naturalize immigrants as a secondary labour pool, which is dismissible and desirable at the same time. My investigation unfolds around four areas of learning. The first is related to immigrants’ self-marketing practices. I show that core to immigrants’ marketing strategies is to speak to the skill discourse or employers’ skill expectations at the “right” time and place. The skill discourse, I argue, is culturally-charged and class-based. It cloaks a complex of hiring relations where “skill” is discursively constructed and differentially invoked to preserve the privilege and power of the dominant group. The second area is immigrants’ work-related learning. I find that workplace training is part of the corporate agenda to organize work and manage workers. Amid this picture, workers’ opportunity to access corporate sponsorship for professional development is contingent on their membership within the engineering community. To expand their professional space, the immigrants resorted to learning and consolidating their knowledge in codes and standards, which serve as a textual organizer of engineering work. The third area is related to workplace communication. My participants reported an individualistic communication ‘culture’, which celebrates individual excellence and discourages close interpersonal relations. Such a perception, I argue, obscures the gender, race and class relations that privilege white and male power. It also leaves out the organizational relations, such as the project-based deployment of the engineering workforce that perpetuate individualistic communicative practices. My last area of investigation focuses on immigrants’ efforts to acquire Canadian credentials and professional licence. Their heavy learning loads direct my attention to the ideological and administrative licensure practices that valorize Canadian credentials and certificates to the exclusion of others.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19164
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology - Doctoral theses

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