Work and learning at the boundaries of knowledge

UPDATE: We have been informed that we can continue to seek candidates for this position until 30 April 2012. Anyone who applies before this date will be considered alongside the existing applicants. 

Applications are invited for a PhD research studentship within the Caledonian Academy ( in Glasgow, UK.  The Caledonian Academy is seeking a talented,  PhD Fellow for a project studying learning practices within groups of knowledge workers at Google and the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments.The studentship is for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and provides payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate  plus an annual stipend of approx £14k. The successful candidate is expected to undertake up to 6 hours of academic support activity per week, which will include research, teaching or administration.

Purpose of Studentship

The Caledonian Academy is offering a 3-year studentship, starting October 2012, to carry out research leading to a PhD investigating work and learning at the boundaries of knowledge. Data will be collected at two sites at Google (USA) and the Chartered Institute of Securities (UK).

Research project

Societal changes, as well as changes in the nature of knowledge mean that knowledge workers are increasingly asked to operate at the boundary of knowledge, or to source and use knowledge across different domains (Nardi et al, 2000). Examples include Software Engineering where technology innovation demands constant reconceptualization of knowledge, and Finance, where changing regulations and recent failures require new solutions and process innovation. Knowledge workers in such contexts must learn continually to maintain expertise. Little is known about how knowledge workers make connections across distributed networks (Edwards, 2010), however social technologies (web2.0) play an important role in supporting learning networks through which knowledge workers can learn from and with each other as they exchange and create new knowledge (Littlejohn et al, 2012) .

This study is a GCU partnership with two leading organisations: Google and the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI). The study will examine the learning practices of:

  • software engineering team at Google – capturing, creating and distributing knowledge in a dynamic and global environment.
  • investment operations professionals devising new processes within global finance institutions, associated with CISI.

Learning practices within these groups will be explored to identify commonalities.

The goal of this study is to identify and model the strategies used by knowledge workers to plan and direct their learning for work. The key research questions are:

  • What factors (individual, organisational, social and technological) constrain and enable effective learning for connected knowledge work?
  • What methods and practices do connected knowledge workers adopt to plan and direct their learning?
  • How can these practices be supported through the use of social technologies?

The project will use a mixed method approach to collect data from target groups of knowledge workers as they learn in the workplace. Instruments will include semi-structured interviews and network analysis.

Supervisory Team

The studentship offers a unique opportunity to work with an internationally-renowned research team which has strong links with leading research centres and the industry.  The supervisory team comprises: Prof. Allison LittlejohnDr Colin Milligan and Dr. Anoush Margaryan Further details are available at

Education/Experience sought:

The fellowship is open to candidates from EU countries*. We are looking for a smart, dynamic, curious and motivated person who has the following skills:

  • Experience, or interest in, conducting mixed methods applied research
  • Strong abilities in writing and oral presentation in English
  • Ability to structure own work to achieve results within strict deadlines
  • Ability to communicate research findings efficiently to both academic and non-academic audiences


  • Applicants must be graduates (Masters or Bachelors Degree plus relevant Masters) with a background in Learning Science or its sub-disciplines. Candidates with a background in Social or Behavioural Sciences are also eligible to apply, though interest in Organisational Learning  is essential.
  • Strong interest in conducting applied research
  • Interest in researching adult workplace learning areas is important


  • Experience  in contemporary network theories is a plus.
  • Familiarity with relevant research on workplace learning is also an advantage

The studentship is open to students from outside the EU, but the award covers the stipend and EU fees only.  We will consider strong non-EU candidates, but they must be prepared to cover the difference between EU and non-EU fees themselves. The difference in the current academic year is £7K per annum. Whilst in the past there have been schemes in the UK to assist non-EU students in finding the additional funding, the current economic climate has resulted in these schemes ending and therefore the University asks that all non-EU applicants must demonstrate availability of their own funds of approximately £21K for the 3 year studentship.


Those seeking further information should contact the supervisory team: or before April 30th 2012.

How to Apply:

Applicants should submit each of the following documents by e-mail to before (new date) April 30th 2012

  1. Letter of interest specifying how you learned about this vacancy and outlining how your skills, experience and background meet the essential and desirable criteria for this studentship.
  2. CV
  3. A writing sample (e.g. a recent journal publication or a chapter from your Masters thesis)
  4. Names and contact information of two references (academic and/or professional).
  5. If you are not an EU citizen, please provide a statement describing how you plan to cover the difference between EU and non-EU fees (approximately £21,000 over the three years of the studentship).