Month: October 2008

We are hiring again: A PhD Fellowship at Glasgow Caledonian University

PhD FELLOWSHIP (Full-time)

Learning from incidents: A social approach to reducing health and safety incidents in the workplace

Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University

Purpose of fellowship

The Caledonian Academy, in collaboration with the UK Energy Institute (EI) and Shell International BV, is offering a 3-year fellowship to carry out research leading to a PhD investigating and developing new approaches to enhancing learning from health and safety incidents in the industrial workplace. This PhD fellowship is funded by the EI and will be jointly supervised by Caledonian Academy, EI and Shell. The research will be conducted in 3 real-life testbeds in Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips. The fellowship offers a unique opportunity to work with three leading, global corporations as well as an internationally-renowned research team.

Research project

Learning from incidents is embedded in the culture of organisations. The premise of this study is that incidents will be reduced by embedding learners into a culture where continuous learning is promoted (a generative organisation). A strong mechanism to achieve a generative organisation can be found from social constructivism. Social constructivism stresses dialogue in learning, with this taking place via an active process of constructing meaning. By following a participatory Change Laboratory methodology, workers, in collaboration with the researcher, will develop a deep understanding of why incidents have occurred and how they can be prevented in the future. Applying deep learning into practice will help develop a safer workplace environment and create a generative organisation.


There is a stipend of £13,900 per annum in the first year, rising to £14,746 in year 3. Each year’s stipend shall be payable to the fellow in four equal quarterly payments on 1 October, 1 January, 1 April and 1 July respectively of each year. In addition, the funding organisation will cover fellow’s PhD fees. Travel and subsistence expenses for carrying out data collection, progress and evaluation meetings in the testbeds will be covered by the funder/sponsoring organisation. The fellowship will also cover a conference visit, as well as residence permit costs for international student and training in workshop facilitation/Change Lab method. Glasgow Caledonian University will provide desk space and amenities.

Duration of fellowship

The fellowship will begin in the first quarter of 2009 (negotiable) and will last for 36 months.

Education/Experience sought:

The fellowship is open to candidates from any country. Applicants must be graduates (Masters or Bachelors Degree plus relevant Masters) with a background (and interests) in Educational Science & Training and its sub-disciplines. Candidates with a background in Social or Behavioural Sciences are also eligible to apply, but a strong interest in Education and Training is essential.

· Experience (or strong interest) in socio-cultural approaches to learning and participatory research methods is necessary. Experience in using Change Laboratory method is not compulsory but would be an advantage. Familiarity with case study methodology will be highly valued.

· Experience (or strong interest) in technology-enhanced learning is desirable. In particular this involves application of emergent social technologies, games and simulation and virtual worlds for learning.

· Familiarity with relevant research on workplace learning, organisational learning, health and safety, motivation, sociology, ergonomics, and/or organisational psychology is a plus.

· Practical understanding of corporate learning context is desirable.

We are looking for a smart, dynamic, curious and motivated person who has the following skills:

· experience, or interest in, conducting original qualitative research

· strong writing and oral presentation abilities

· ability to work to strict deadlines

· ability to communicate research findings efficiently to both academic and corporate audiences

· skills in workshop facilitation are desirable

Application Materials and Deadline:

Applicants should submit the following documentation by e-mail to Ms. Fiona McBeth

*Letter of interest

* A writing sample (500-1000 words)
* Names and contact information of two references (professional and/or academic).

Deadline for applications is November 28, 17:00 GMT. Interviews with shortlisted candidates will be conducted in December 2008.

Additional information

The PhD fellowship will be supervised by Professor Allison Littlejohn, Director of the Caledonian Academy and Dr Anoush Margaryan, Lecturer in Learning Technology at Glasgow Caledonian University (, along with two corporate supervisors.


Those seeking further information should contact Prof. Allison Littlejohn, tel: +44-141-331-8409, email:


Innovation in public sector

A fascinating talk by David Snowden on innovation in public sector, in which he talks, among other things, about complexity of adaptive systems and why methods used in managing manufacturing systems don’t work in services sector, for example in government’s interaction with its citizens (think education, health system, etc) .  An excerpt from the talk:

“The best way to understand this is through how you would manage childrens’ party.  Everybody can imagine a party for 10-11 year olds? There are a number of ways you can manage a party for a bunch of 11 year olds. One is a sort of chaotic systems approach in which you buy the drugs and alcohol so they go on a personal experience of self-discovery. I don’t recommend this – teh recovery cost is high…On the other hand you could organise it in the way you organise it in the government [substitute with “education”, “university”].  You make sure you agree learning objectives for the party in advance of the party itself. The learning objectives should be aligned with mission statement for education in society to which you belong. And you should print the learning objectives off on motivational posters with pictures of eagles soaring over valleys and water dropping into ponds. Put them around the walls in the room where you are going to hold the party. You then produce a project plan for the party. The project plan should have clear milestones throughout the party against which you can measure the progress of party against an ideal party outcome. And you should start the party with motivational video tap, because you don’t want the children to waste time in play which is not aligned with learning objectives. The senior adult should then use a powerpoint slide set to demonstrate their personal committment to the party’s objectives and also show children how the pocket money allowances are linked to the attainment of targets. Following the highly successful completion of the party, you conduct an after-action review, update your best practice database on party management and mandate future process improvements.  If at the end of this for any reason children aren’t happy, you hire an appreciative inquiry practitioner and then get them to tell happy-clappy stories so they have happy mental models and are suitably indoctrinated so that they will like it whatever you put in front of them next time. Everybody familiar with this approach to party management?”

Some soundbites:

  • tensions between manufacturing methods vs services (eg government interaction with its citizens)
  • context is essential: what works in one context won’t necessarily work in another – but this doesn’t mean we cannot learn from experiences in otehr contexts
  • we know what we need to know when we need to know it – situationally non-transferable practice
  • don’t imitate, innovate – receipe based approach is damaging
  • best practices don’t work – humans learn from failure not success; humans prefer to talk to other humans rather than searching for best practices in databases
  • beware of retrospective coherense – hindsight doesn’t give you foresight – anyone who thinks they can hypothesise on the basis of retrospective examination of case deserves a place in a pantheon of witch doctors
  • major mistake of management science is to confuse cause and effect
  • creativity is not the casue of innovation – innovative people are creative but creativity alone won’t make you innovative
  • 3 conditions for innovation: starvation of resources, pressure of time, perspective shift (life and death situation) – eg Appollo 13 film
  • innovation in public sector is discovered in the context of real-world problems not 3 year research projects
  • You cannot manage outcomes but can manage the nature of interactions between people – the way to do it is to expose people to others who think differently
  • distributed congintion vs wisdom of crowds
  • data shouldn’t be intermediated – decision makers who encounter raw data make better decisions
  • the way to innovate is to detect weak signals before everyone else does, then act on good ones and disrupt bad ones