‘Not just another survey’: Reflections on researchers’ working and learning through investigating work and lifelong learning
Reflecting on researchers’ work and learning through their participation in a large, multi-part and long-term research project seems particularly apt when that project focuses on work and learning. Hence, this chapter seeks to provide such a reflection, albeit from the perspective of a researcher with his own preferences for conducting inquiry and conceptions of work and learning through work, and who had particular kinds of engagement with that project. This engagement was across the entire network project: from early meetings about its proposal, the process of assessment, and then through participation across its enactment, most notably through attending the annual meetings as an international adviser. In addition, the author has participated in and led multi-member research teams, and experienced and learned from some of the complexities of completing projects on time, with the available funds, and to satisfy participants’ and sponsors’ needs and aspirations. However, none of those projects has approximated the scale of the Work and Lifelong Learning (WALL) network, which was extraordinary in terms of its scope, complexity and extent of funding. However, before advancing such a reflection, some acknowledgement is required of issues associated with using different disciplines and methodologies within such a research network. Most notable are those issues that arise between researchers adopting qualitative and qualitative orientations and procedures. The orthodoxies that underpin these distinct methodologies are long-standing, frequently contested, and have been eloquently and extensively debated. Moreover, the disciplines within the social sciences are founded on distinct premises, conceptions and starting points (e.g. the individual or social systems and factors), hence issues of disciplinary orientations can also make problematic the conduct of such a network.