Learner biographies and learning cultures:Identity and apprenticeship in England and Germany – Michaela Brockmann – 2013
This comparative, multi-method ethnography is an in-depth study of sixteen apprentices in England and Germany, on two contrasting apprenticeship programmes—retail and motor vehicle maintenance. Bringing together a wealth of rich material, including young people’s life stories and data from observations in workplaces and colleges, it paints a compelling picture of the individual young people as they negotiate learner identities over time, in multiple life domains and in the ‘learning cultures’ of the workplace and the college. The cross-national comparative design, contrasting the high-quality German dual system with the variable provision of apprenticeships in England, highlights the significance of discursive regimes in young people’s identity construction. It is argued that learner identities are not natural or abiding, but are formed through concrete experiences of learning and constituted in institutional settings with discursive frameworks that prioritise certain forms of knowledge. The findings challenge one of the most common stereotypes of young people in vocational education in England today—that they are ‘naturally’ non-academic and that vocational pathways need to provide predominantly ‘practical’ training.