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Business and Management
Oxford Brookes Business School
+44 (0) 1865 485968
CLC 1.27, Clerici Building, Headington Campus
Career and education background:
Karen is a Reader in Work & Organisations at the Business School. She gained her first degree in International Relations from the University of Sussex, then worked in the financial services sector before studying for an MBA at Cranfield School of Management. She subsequently joined PricewaterhouseCoopers as a management consultant in the financial services division. Her interest in the potential of e-learning at PwC led to doctoral research at Imperial College, University of London, and she completed her PhD in 2003. After a post-doc position at Imperial College, Karen joined Brookes in 2006. More recently, Karen took a career break in 2013-4 to do an MA in Social and Political Thought at the University of Warwick, for which she was awarded the John Rex prize.
Karen teaches Undergraduate, Masters, and Doctoral students, and is currently involved in the following modules:
Karen's current research interests include the changing dynamics of the workplace, and broader issues relating to work, worker identity, employment and organisations. Karen's current research investigates issues of diversity at work, focusing on the experiences, aspirations and difficulties of young graduates and older workers as they navigate a changing labour market. She is an associate at the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice. Her recently-completed project on the work narratives and aspirations of knowledge workers in their 50s, funded by the British Academy, has just been published.
Previous research projects investigated client-consultancy projects and relationships. Karen was involved in the ESRC-funded project, Knowledge Evolution in Action: Client-Consultancy Relationships, which was part of a programme of research on the Evolution of Business Knowledge. http://www.ebkresearch.org/. A key theme of the research was to explore how clients and consultants share knowledge and generate new ideas. Karen's pedagogic research interests include student engagement, and staff identities and forms of participation in communities of practice.
Karen has published in Work, Employment & Society, Journal of Management Studies, Management Learning, Organization, Journal of Organizational Behaviour, Studies in Higher Education, Higher Education Research & Development, and Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
This article examines the narratives of 24 knowledge workers aged 48-58 as they anticipate their future employment and employability. The term knowledge worker is used to indicate occupational roles such as software engineer, academic, architect, manager and lawyer, where work involves non-routine problem-solving using 'intellectual assets'. Four narrative patterns about future employment are presented - winding down; reorienting 'self' away from work; seeking progression; renewal. These patterns reveal contrasting self-evaluations of employability and potential.
We argue that employability is not a straightforward function of human capital, which usually refers to experience, knowledge and qualifications. We show through our data how judgements about a person’s employability – both self-evaluations as well as evaluations by others - are complicated by social norms and cultural understandings of 'potential'. Strategies to signal one's potential become more complex and sometimes less effective for older knowledge workers. We contend that a person's age influences others' evaluations of their employment potential, such that the relationship between attributed merit (based largely on past experience) and attributed potential (based on assumptions about a person's future) is inverted as workers become older.
The findings have implications for public policies such as Extending Working Lives. Policies that remove legal and institutional barriers to extended working lives may be only partially successful without changes to cultural attitudes about older workers' employment potential.
Enterprise education has been identified as suffering from fluctuating policy, inconsistent funding and faddish practice, thereby limiting the development of a sustainable community of scholar-practitioners. In view of these constraints, this article considers the position of the often-isolated enterprise educators, and focuses on the role networks play in supporting their sustainable professional development and hence the domain itself. A case–based analysis draws on social-constructivist concepts of networks and communities of practice to analyse a UK-based network, Enterprise Educators UK (‘EEUK’). It is argued that the member-driven nature of EEUK is unique and important for providing a sustainable forum through which enterprise educators can engage, share practice, find identity, develop ownership of and deliver sustained innovation in enterprise education. Generating a rich picture of the enterprise educator’s ecosystem, the article makes a methodological contribution to network research by undertaking a longitudinal analysis of a decade of ‘Best Practice’ events. It extends Community of Practice theory of peripheral participation and identity in professional associations, and derives practical implications for enterprise educator networks. Recommendations are made for future research and dissemination of enterprise educator practice at, between, and beyond events, to further the development of the international enterprise education domain.
A discourse of employability saturates the Higher Education sector in the UK. Government and employers call on universities to produce employable graduates who are attractive to the labour market and can sustain their future marketability by taking responsibility for protean self-development. While the neoliberal assumptions behind this call have attracted robust critique, the extent to which employers shape graduating students’ subjectivities and sense of worth as (potentially employable) workers has escaped scrutiny. Inspired by Foucauldian analyses of Human Resource Management (HRM) practices, this article examines employers’ graduate careers websites and explores the discursive construction of the ‘employable graduate’. The article contends that these websites function as a mechanism of anticipatory socialisation through which HRM practices extend managerial control into the transitional space of pre-recruitment, with the aim of engaging students’ consent to particular norms of employability.
Within many higher education systems there is a search for means to increase levels of student satisfaction with assessment feedback. This article suggests that the search is under way in the wrong place by concentrating on feedback as a product rather than looking more widely to feedback as a long-term dialogic process in which all parties are engaged. A three-year study, focusing on engaging students with assessment feedback, is presented and analysed using an analytical model of stages of engagement. The analysis suggests that a more holistic, socially-embedded conceptualisation of feedback and engagement is needed. This conceptualisation is likely to encourage tutors to support students in more productive ways, which enable students to use feedback to develop their learning, rather than respond mechanistically to the tutors' ‘instruction'.
Feedback is central to pedagogic theory, and if feedback is to be effective, students need to engage with it and apply it at some point in the future. However, student dissatisfaction with feedback – as evidenced in the National Student Survey – suggests that there are problems which limit student engagement with feedback, such as their perception that much of their feedback is irrelevant to future assignments. This article reports on a study which sought to enhance engagement by giving students exemplar assignments annotated with feedback before submission of their final assignments. This was done by providing an online facility where students could view exemplars and post comments or questions to tutors and peers on a discussion board. The exemplar facility was highly valued by students, although there were no quantitative effects such as an increase in students’ assignment marks when compared with the previous cohort. The article reflects on possible reasons for this result and discusses ways to improve the exemplar facility, for example by facilitating dialogue between tutors and students. The article concludes with lessons learned about how to construct exemplars, and considers how exemplars might also be used within marking teams to improve consistency of marking.
Constraints in resourcing and student dissatisfaction with assessment feedback mean that the effectiveness of our feedback practices has never been so important. Drawing on findings from a three-year study focused on student engagement with feedback, this paper reveals the limited extent to which effectiveness can be accurately measured and challenges many of the assumptions and beliefs about effectiveness of feedback practices. Difficulties relating to multiple purposes of feedback, its temporal nature and the capabilities of evaluators reveal that measuring effectiveness is fraught with difficulty. The paper argues that the learner is in the best position to judge the effectiveness of feedback, but may not always recognise the benefits it provides. Therefore, the pedagogic literacy of students is key to evaluation of feedback and feedback processes.
Management consultancy is seen by many as a key agent in the adoption of new management ideas and practices in organizations. Two contrasting views are dominant-”consultants as innovators, bringing new knowledge to their clients or as legitimating client knowledge. Those few studies which examine directly the flow of knowledge through consultancy in projects with clients favour the innovator view and highlight the important analytical and practical value of boundaries-” consultants as both knowledge and organizational outsiders. Likewise, in the legitimator view, the consultants" role is seen in terms of the primacy of the organizational boundary. By drawing on a wider social science literature on boundaries and studies of inter-organizational knowledge flow and management consultancy more generally, this polarity is seen as problematic, especially at the level of the consulting project. An alternative framework of boundary relations is developed and presented which incorporates their multiplicity, dynamism and situational specificity. This points to a greater complexity and variability in knowledge flow and its potential than is currently recognized. This is significant not only in terms of our understanding of management consultancy and inter-organizational knowledge dynamics and boundaries, but of a critical understanding of the role of management consultancy more generally.
A weakness of the burgeoning policy-related literature on older workers is a tendency to treat ‘older workers’ as a single, homogenous group, overlooking the influence of intersectional factors such as income, education, social background, occupation, age and the type-of-work on individual experience. Only ‘gender’ has attracted sustained research attention, yet other socio-demographic characteristics are likely to have effects which are just as important. To take one example, professionally qualified accountants have very different opportunities in later life compared with car assembly workers whose activities are tied to ‘the track’ and therefore lack portability. Age itself is a key variable in older worker research. The experiences, motivations and aspirations of a 50-year-old are likely to be barely comparable with those of an 85-year-old; the 35-year gap is almost a generational difference. This heterogeneity of older worker experiences, contexts and situations suggests that research should be more attentive to variations. This can be partly achieved by investigating sub-groups within the broader ‘older worker’ category. The potential advantage of doing so is a greater understanding of older workers, which may lead to more targeted policymaking. This study seeks to contribute to this broader agenda by focusing on one particular group of workers: those aged between 48 and 58 years employed in, or studying at, a higher education institution. People in this group are getting older, but are certainly not elderly, and they potentially have many years of work ahead of them. In the literature and the media, they are often referred to as the ‘sandwiched’ generation with caring responsibilities for their offspring as well as for longer living parents.
Handley, K. (2018) Anticipatory socialisation and the construction of the employable graduate: A critical analysis of employers' graduate careers websites, Work, Employment and Society. 32, 2, 239-256. DOI: 10.1177/0950017016686031
Michels, N., Beresford, K., Beresford, R. and Handley, K. (2018) 'From fluctuation and fragility to innovation and sustainability: the role of a member network in UK enterprise education' accepted for publication in Industry and Higher Education. Special issue: Enterprise Education and Entrepreneurial Learning 32 (6) 2013
Handley, K. and den Outer, B. (2016) Work and careers: narratives from knowledge workers aged 48-58, in: Manfredi, S. and Vickers, L. (eds.) Challenges of active ageing for equality law and for the workplace. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
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