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Title: Constructing Learning: Adversarial and Collaborative Working in the British Construction Industry
Authors: Bishop, Daniel
Felstead, Alan
Fuller, Alison
Jewson, Nick
Kakavelakis, Konstantinos
Unwin, Lorna
First Published: Jan-2008
Publisher: Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Citation: Learning as Work: Teaching and Learning Processes in Contemporary Work Organisations, Research Paper No.13
Abstract: This paper examines two competing systems of organising the construction process and their consequences for learning. Under the adversarial system, contractors compete solely on price, risks are shifted onto those next in line and disputes are institutionalised through complicated, but inevitably incomplete, contracts. However, under collaborative working the costs and risks of the project are shared and the parties involved communicate openly and freely, often in the absence of tightly specified contracts. The move from the former to the latter – prompted and encouraged by government enquiries, large public sector clients and building regulations – represents a shift towards a climate in which problems are shared and solved regardless of where they occur in the productive system (a process conceptualised as ‘knotworking’ in the literature). The paper argues that such learning theories and policy pressures from above fail to take adequately into account the heavy hand of history and the importance of understanding the nature of the productive systems in which ‘knotworking’ is expected to occur. Both are important in understanding the fragility of collaborative working across the stages and structures of the construction production process which place limits on making ‘knotworking’ an habitual and commonplace activity.
Series/Report no.: Learning as Work
Type: Report
Description: This working paper is Research Paper No. 13 of a series produced for Learning as Work: Teaching and Learning Processes in the Contemporary Work Organisation, an ESRC Teaching and Learning Programme (TLRP) Phase III funded project (2003 - 2008). It is available from
Appears in Collections:Reports, Centre for Labour Market Studies

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