Cureton, Peter J. (University of Liverpool (Chester College of Higher Education), 2014-11)
This thesis uses an abductive research strategy to discover how individuals in a UK contact centre became first-line managers. Managers play a significant role in organisations as supervisors of staff, yet there is no general agreement as to what they do or how. Adopting an idealist ontology and a constructionist epistemology, this ethnographic project uncovered stories of becoming by using questionnaires, observations and interviews with twelve participants. The context was a private / public sector partnership to provide advice and guidance to a local community. The use by organisations of contact centres is maturing in the private sector and growing in the public sector. It is an especially important arena to explore in the UK economy as currently many contact centres that were outsourced to cheaper, high quality labour markets are returning to the UK. Analysis of data showed clearly that learning to become a first-line manager occurred throughout the life course in three distinct stages; formative development, and reflecting the values and behaviours of parents and teachers; pre-management occupational development, and the experience of being managed; and development actually in the role of a first-line manager. The thesis makes four contributions to the extant literature. Firstly, these three stages were shown to be the route in the transition from legitimate peripheral participation to mastery. Situated learning theory provides no such clarification. Secondly, learning to become a first-line manager did not necessarily change identity as many writers claim. Identities of first-line manager evolved by building on personal and occupational identities that had been developed earlier. Thirdly, teachers made a vital contribution to developing future first-line managers by affirming and strengthening family values. They also encouraged their pupils to recognise the connection between effort and gaining reward for achievement. Finally, the messy terrain of learning theory has been clarified, not as grand theory, but as mid-range theorising through a new conceptual framework. This schema synthesizes learning orientations with learning metaphors and learning viewed as a noun or a verb, and the various influences on learning from structure and agency. The four learning modes are adapt, assimilation, accommodation and aspire.
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