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Workplace Learning for School-Based Apprenticeships: Tripartite Conversations as a Boundary-Crossing Tool

Chapter in book
Authors Ingela Andersson
Published in Integration of Vocational Education and Training Experiences
Pages 259-278
ISSN 1871-3041
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Pages 259-278
Language en
Keywords Activity theory, Boundary-crossing tool, Tripartite conversation, Upper Secondary Apprenticeships
Subject categories Pedagogy


This chapter examines how a vocational education and training activity, the tripartite conversation, is shaped in the context of the Swedish upper secondary apprenticeship education. Learning in school and in a workplace is often emphasised as complementary. Research that draws on activity theory emphasises the development of shared spaces to support integration of learning across these sites. In this chapter the tripartite conversation is investigated as a tool intended to support integration of experiences across school and workplace. The focus of this study was the following question: What does the tripartite conversation indicate about what the parties try to achieve with regard to students’ learning? Field studies were conducted in three upper secondary schools in 2014. Sixteen tripartite conversations between vocational teacher, workplace tutor and student have been analysed. Activity theory and the concepts of tensions and contradictions have formed the analytical framework. The tripartite conversation is identified as a boundary-crossing tool to plan and negotiate workplace learning paths. The findings show that students were expected to develop knowledge, skills and abilities to handle daily work assignments and complex work situations in the workplace. These goals were sometimes hard to achieve due to uncertainties among participants about the learning objectives, norms and rules that guided the students’ learning in the work place. It is concluded that integration of experiences across sites can be supported when workplace learning is collaboratively planned and evaluated from the perspectives of school and workplace respectively. © 2018, Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

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