Stressed-out Knowledge Workers in Performative Times: A Postmodern Take on Project-based Learning

John Garrick, Stewart Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article takes as its topic recent developments in project-based learning. These are a major response to the changing articulation of the knowledge-based economy. Corresponding changes to the role of universities, whose mastery of knowledge is now being questioned, are a consequence-one often not anticipated as such. One response to the upsurge in interest in project-based learning for 'knowledge work' has been to move the university further into the workplace by legitimizing work-based and more flexible approaches to learning. The article identifies how, from a critically postmodern perspective, some problems occur with this shift, including the performative stresses on 'knowledge workers' who are now expected to reflect on their learning through work or project-based 'curricula'. Critical theories are useful in so far as they go, in bringing workplaces as learning environments into sharper focus. However, it is our argument that they do not go far enough, as (ironically) there are too many uncritical assumptions undergirding critical theory. The focus then switches to a postmodern analysis of project-based learning. From this perspective, project-based learning may be seen as too wedded to instrumental desires for performativity. We argue that postmodern ideas about project-based learning can offer practical organizational options, although we do not assert they are the only good options!

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-134
Number of pages16
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes


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