Organisation and team learning

There is a growing expectation that schools will show an ability to learn, for individuals (teachers, leaders, other adults participating in school work) and the school organisation. Organisational learning (OL) is how organisations reach the ideal of a learning organisation.

OL has flourished since its beginnings in the 1980s. Economides (2008) believed that the greatest learning takes place collaboratively as opposed to individually. Popper and Lipshitz (2000) talk about “learning within” an organisation – individually, and “learning of ” the organisation – collectively. It is therefore more than individual learning and arises through the interaction of individuals in groups and teams.

Robbins (1996) distinguished between two types of learning, namely single-loop learning and double-loop learning. In the former, errors are corrected using past routines and present policies. In the latter errors are corrected by modifying the organisation’s objectives, policies and standard routines. According to Robbins, double-loop learning challenges deep-rooted assumptions and norms, thereby creating opportunities for radically different solutions to problems.

The notion of team work is highly praised and encouraged as a means of organisational learning. Few people work alone in organisations. Team learning and collaboration are central to the school as a learning organisation. Most organisations are built around teams with more and more organisations are seeing the leverage potential of focusing on teams.  Team learning, which consists of building knowledge by sharing information and ideas with colleagues  and questioning and discussing this shared information (Decuyper et al., 2010) is needed to increase team performance. I saw a wonderful example of this on a visit to Tampere University in Finland with team learning on a number of community projects. Three factors reflect the role and function of these learning teams:

  • An acceptance by the team and the team coach that a coaching approach is appropriate and beneficial
  • A focus on performance
  • An emphasis on conversations between team members aimed at making more effective use of collective skills, knowledge and interests.

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Decuyper, S., Dochy, F., & Van den Bossche, P. (2010). Grasping the dynamic complexity of team learning: An integrative model for effective team learning in organisations. Educational Research Review, 5(2), 111e133.

Economides, A.A. (2008) Culture-aware collaborative learning, Multicultural

Education & Technology Journal, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 243-267

Popper, M. & Lipshitz, R. (2000), Organizational learning: mechanisms, culture, and feasibility, Management Learning , Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 181-196.

Robbins, S. (Seventh Edition) (1996). Organizational Behaviour: Concepts – Controversies - Applications. Prentice-Hall: New Jersey.