Through their eyes : experiences of early professional learners in collecting institutions

  • Marian Hoy

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis presents an interpretive study of professional learning in collecting institutions such as archives, galleries, libraries and museums. The intention of the study is to explore and understand the perceptions, expectations and experiences of information professionals as they embark on new positions, participate in and emerge from initial professional learning experiences in collecting institutions. The study, conducted between 2006 and 2008,followed 16 individuals working in collecting institutions at various career stages as they became familiar with a new work environment, new responsibilities, and new relationships. The study sought to capture and understand how their learning experiences over a two year period helped them apply professional principles, and build skills and knowledge. The setting of collecting institutions was chosen because the researcher, through being a practitioner, educator and supervisor developing individuals in a collecting institution for over 25 years, could see unresolved issues about how early professional learners navigated their new environments. The study adopted interpretive qualitative research methodologies, using in-depth, semi-structured interviews to understand experiences and expectations through the eyes of individuals. There was a longitudinal aspect to the study as research participants were interviewed on three separate occasions to mark different milestones over a two-year period. The significance of the study is that it places the experiences of the individual at the centre, rather than examining how collecting institutions implemented learning and development programs. The study found that the research participants valued the opportunity to undertake internships, volunteer and paid work while studying towards formal qualifications. The study found a rich array of learning experiences to build professional knowledge over the two years through formal and informal ways. The research participants changed positions and duties much more in the first two years than they had expected, especially in stepping up to supervision, training and mentoring others for the first time. Few received training in how to perform these roles, which has implications for how professional knowledge is transferred in the workplace. The study found that participantsā€˜ relationships with supervisors, peers and mentors had a major influence on their access to learning experiences. Mentoring emerged to be much more organic and participant driven than presented in the literature. The study hoped to contribute to the understanding of how early professional learners experienced that situation, what they valued and their views on what could be improved. This study has given them a voice to reveal what was important to them about working in collecting institutions, how they navigated those early years and how they built their professional knowledge. Their voice heard, others can learn and build relationship-rich, diverse, flexible and enabling environments for those early years.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPeter Clayton (Supervisor) & Carole Kayrooz (Supervisor)

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