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They've gotta learn something unless they're just out to lunch: Becoming an expert in a salmon hatchery.

Within a cultural-historical perspective on workplace learning, practical knowledge emerges through sustained participation in some community of practice. The trajectories of expertise are usually explained drawing on concepts such as centripetally driven membership or participatory appropriation. Though yielding many insights into the inseparable linkage of agent, activity and cognition, these concepts have not explicated the nature of the development of expertise. Based on an ethnographic study of a salmon hatchery, we suggest that two dialectical processes drive the development of expertise in fish culture. First, the dialectic of doing inevitably transforms individuals as they participate in activity over historic time. Traditional learning theories require the injection of novelty and challenge to preclude habituation and negative learning. Through this dialectic of doing we understand that change always emerges in activity even if workers seem to be doing the same thing over and over again. Second, deeper experiential (practical) and conceptual (scientific) knowledge emerged when fish culturists initiated and conducted scientific experiments leading to the dialectic of practical understanding and explaining. On the one hand, the design and execution of scientific experiments required practical understanding of fish culture; on the other hand, practical understanding developed by means of experimentation. Our study reveals patterns that are of interest to researchers wanting to trace the development of expertise in workplaces.

Lee, Y.-J., & Roth, W.-M. (2004).They've gotta learn something unless they're just out to lunch: Becoming an expert in a salmon hatchery. Anthropology of Work Review, XXV(1-2), 15-21.

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