Paperwork and pressure in educational workplaces: the textual mediation of target culture

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Faculty of Arts and Social Science

Abstract

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Publications

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Description The overall aim of this research related to the impact of changing textual processes on the nature of the work. The more general messages of the project in relation to this question resonate with other research that has been carried out in a range of related fields. They can briefly be expressed in terms of four areas:
- Possibility. Increases in the volume and complexity of workplace paperwork, and in work intensity as paperwork is articulated with other tasks, are leading to feelings that keeping on top of the paperwork is becoming impossible, particularly when time and space are not allocated specifically for this. This also has an impact on possibilities for other activities at work, such as caring and emotional work (Davies 1994), 'hands-on' tasks (Lamvik, Naesje et al. 2009) or workplace learning (Arthur and Tait 2004). Constant change exacerbates these issues (Edward, Coffield et al. 2007).
- Purpose. With the introduction of new paperwork demands, the purposes of 'work' are changing (Iedema and Scheeres 2003; Karlsson 2005). This is particularly problematic where purposes associated with accountability and paperwork are seen to compete with the purpose of the job as originally conceived (Sheldon and Biddle 1998), or where the process of completing the paperwork makes the other purposes of the job more difficult to achieve (Hughes, Aspinal et al. 2004).
- Proximity. Increased centralisation of paperwork demands means that paperwork can be perceived as being requested by a 'faceless they', with sources and purposes of paperwork becoming increasingly unclear (Ball 2003), exacerbating resentment and feelings of lack of communication and control. Communication and reduction of perceived distance between staff and paperwork source is therefore crucial (Kerr 2008).
- Professional identities, relationships and situations. Increases in paperwork demands can transform professional identities and relationships (Farrell 2001; Wong 2006). What it means to 'do a good job' becomes conflated with 'reporting on having done a good job'. Relationships change radically where audit demands are predicated on, and indeed create, mistrust (Power 1997; Inglis 2000).

As an in-depth study of two case study sites, these issues need to be explored further at different scales and in different settings before generalisations can be made. However, in communicating this research with others, these four areas have already resonated with people from a range of workplaces. They offer a framework for interpretation which goes beyond the simple 'paperwork overload' discourse and give a way of exploring the reasons and factors shaping people's experiences of paperwork in the workplace.
Exploitation Route Insights into the nature of paperwork demands people face and the reasons for their diverse responses to these have potentially broad relevance, anywhere people are working in institutional settings.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy

 
Description Paperwork in the workplace : responses to 'imposed' literacy practices (Literacy Research Discussion Group) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Literacy studies, particularly at Lancaster, has a strong tradition of bringing to light vernacular, self-generated literacy practices which are otherwise often overlooked. In this presentation I am going to examine how people negotiate literacy practices that are, in some ways, the opposite to this: that is, paperwork demands that are imposed on them, as a requirement of their work. These practices have increased in contemporary workplaces, as part of a shift towards increased pressures of self-accountability at all levels. I have recently been researching experiences of such paperwork in two contrasting educational workplaces: an early years education site, and an adult and community college. In both sites, a common discourse about the problems of paperwork was drawn on by staff describing their experiences. By comparing the two sites, however, significant differences emerge which give insights into the conditions under which imposed literacy practices become more or less problematic. I will describe these differences, and argue that responses to such 'imposed' literacy practices can give us insights into how textualisation of the workplace shapes and changes workplace social relations and professional identities.

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Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/event/3150/
 
Description Paperwork pressures in two contrasting educational workplaces : purpose, proximity and professional identity (Birmingham School of Education) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact In this talk, Dr Tusting spoke about the research she had recently completed exploring the impact of paperwork demands on workplace experience. Studies in a range of workplaces have identified increased textualisation and writing demands as an aspect of workplace inequality (Gee, Hull et al. 1996; Iedema and Scheeres 2003; Farrell 2006). Previous research has labelled this phenomenon a shift to an 'audit society' (Strathern 2000) or an 'audit culture' (Power 1997), in which the obligation to report on one's working practices in written (whether paper or electronic) form has taken on much greater significance. Her research focused on the literacy practices associated with 'paperwork' (either on physical paper, or electronically), and the impact of these practices on people's working lives, in two contrasting educational workplaces: an adult and community college, and an early years education centre. The effects of these paperwork demands on people's experience can be expressed in terms of four broad areas: possibility; purpose; professional identities; and proximity. In this talk, she presented and explored data relating to each of these issues; discussed reasons for similarities and differences between experiences in the two sites; and drew out broader implications of this work for understandings of workplace literacy practices and audit culture.

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Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.education.bham.ac.uk/research/researchgroups/lds/past_events.shtml
 
Description Presentation to Fusion! professional development group, Kendal College Cumbria 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to the Fusion! professional development group, held at Kendal College, Cumbria.

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Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010