required by the new computer system, they did not modify the company's training practices. Workers were expected to take on the new responsibilities without being specifically trained for them. Yet the training that "took shape" enables new workers to stay on the job and assume increased responsibilities. Stockroom training pragmatically measures up to some level of
effectiveness. It is important to note that this level of
effectiveness is achieved:
(a) without the imposition of an educational criterion for
(b) with trainers who varied in experience from 13 years to
less than two months;
(c) without any special procedures for introducing learners
to the computer system or for acquainting them with general
These circumstances suggest that even ad hoc on-the-job training is a powerful educative practice for initial levels of
2. Although trainers are not trained to train, all do in
fact train, not merely work alongside newcomers. When we looked closely at what was going on between trainers and learners, we found that all worked out some form of division of labor that drew the trainee into practice in a way that got the work
accomplished; and that the trainers reorganized the work in
similar ways for training purposes. The systematic approach, in the absence of any specific training curriculum, suggests that ways of guiding others into knowledge and work procedures are indigenous in workplace communities. Workplace settings may contain educational resources with considerable potential.
3. Activities that are called training primarily involve
normal work routines. Learners are introduced to the more
demanding aspects of the work accidentally, that is, only when a problem arises in the course of routine work. Over a long period of time, new employees "accidentally" encounter a fuller range of problems. But becoming adept at troubleshooting calls for a fuller understanding of the production and computer systems than does the routine work. To the extent that training does not accelerate or facilitate such learning in an organized way it cannot be considered fully effective from the perspective of the worker's long-term career development, even though it may meet management's immediate needs.
We brought to this research the theoretical perspective of
activity theory. This perspective helped us analyze the complex and changing relationships of a stream of behavior designed both to educate and to produce manufactured goods. Positing work and training as two different activities enabled us to identify a variety of relationships between them: normal work tasks were incorporated into training, some aspects of work were modified for training purposes, and work not directly related to training nevertheless served training purposes.