Bringing Organizations Back into the Study of Education

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Kathia SERRANO-VELARDE, Heidelberg University, Germany
The paper contributes to the special issue by identifying new areas for the study of organizations in sociology: The Study of Education has much to gain from an organizational perspective on learning processes. Whereas most sociological research dealing with education issues emphasize the importance of classroom, cohorts, or educational districts in the making and unmaking of educational trajectories, little is known about organizational effects on individual learning strategies. This is especially the case for situations of so-called informal learning – that is, learning beyond traditional educational settings such as schools or universities. The paper addresses this gap by providing a theoretical and empirical account of the informality of learning situations in the framework of the German voluntary service. Our aim is to make the organization “reappear” as a critical unit of analysis in our sociological understanding of lifelong learning and secondary socialization.

By analyzing how and to what extent informal learning is structured by organizational factors, we explore both the social mechanisms behind the individual learning experience and the way organizations deal with learners.To access the complexity and plurality of informal learning environments and their impact on individual learning, we opted for a mixed methods design combining two types of qualitative data sets: First, we sampled twenty narrative interviews with German voluntary service participants. The interviews elicit information on the expectation framework of volunteers, typical learning situations in the host organization, and their contact to the wider organizational context (colleagues, superiors, and patients/clients). This database helped us to identify systematic variations in the organization’s impact on the individual capacity to recognize and take advantage of learning opportunities. Second, we performed a multi-site ethnography in two types of organizations: hospitals and care centers for people with disabilities.