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Research Domain: Group Two - Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

Title of Project: Learning Labour - A PLAR Project

Start Date: April 1, 1997
Academic Investigator: Dr. Bruce Spencer (Athabasca U.)
Student Researcher: Derek Briton (U. Alberta)

The project is investigating the learning that takes place within labour organizations. The intention is to recognize the non-formal and informal learning associated with activity in labour unions and relate that to credits within the formal educational system, in particular to labour studies and labour relations courses in colleges and universities.

Labour education spans a range of "tools", "issues" and "labour studies" courses (Spencer, 1994) which have few linkages to college and university credit courses (limited exceptions include George Brown College and Athabasca University). Put simply, labour education programs (and the learning of the union members) are not generally recognized by the formal educational system.

In addition to labour education for activists and representatives labour offers a range of other workplace-based courses for members, ranging across basic education and language training, health and safety and vocational issues which will also be acknowledged.

A further area of inquiry is the informal learning associated with union activity such as knowledge about: running meetings, advocacy, representation, leadership and democratic processes and the insights gained into understanding such concepts as "incorporation" and "independence" as the apply to labour relations.

The intention is to achieve a very practical outcome: a schema suggesting a method of linking "learning labour" to college and university credits. This would act as an encouragement to working people to engage in credit courses which may benefit themselves and their organizations. It would grant credit -- a form of advanced standing -- which acknowledges what they have learned from their experience and from their labour education is valuable, important knowledge recognized as such by the academy.

The project relies on co-operation from individual unions and labour centrals. Unions such as CEP, Steelworkers, CAW, CUPE, PSAC, IWA and AUPE, and labour centrals at provincial (eg OFL, ALF) and national level (eg CLC) have (or can be expected to) co-operate (the Ontario region of CEP was the first to endorse this proposal). The project could also be linked to the work of the Labour College of Canada and the new CLC training initiative (AU has some links with all of these labour organizations). Data is being collected from all participating unions; data relating to the range, nature and duration of labour education courses and programs and to informal learning within those organizations. Other information will be gathered from colleges and universities offering labour studies and labour relations courses.

Eventually a matrix or schema will be suggested for linking learning labour to credit. This schema will be discussed with all the participants.


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