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Learning Organization and Change Among Teachers Essay


Narrative

What factors seem to be inhibiting individual and collective learning?

The primary inhibiting factors are weak team cohesion and an inappropriate communication pattern. It is possible to say that they are both rooted in the leadership style practiced by the previous principal. The authoritarian leadership may be efficient in maintaining discipline and order, yet it is detrimental to all innovation and learning efforts. The main reason for this is the downward communication pattern associated with it.

At the same time, as stated by Örtenblad (2001), in organizations with favorable environments for learning, managers act as coaches rather than as directors. Contrary to the horizontal model of communication, the downward communication usually does not give subordinates/teachers opportunities to be creative, share personal opinions with managers and employees of all levels, seek their feedback, and make a contribution to positive organizational changes.

In such an excessively formalized and conservative culture, new teachers are at a loss. As a result of poor communication and knowledge management in the school, they are uncertain about their professional roles, and it may adversely impact their performance. It seems that a well-structured communication and improved interpersonal relationships among staff members will help to decrease the excess uncertainty levels and will allow developing the understanding of organizational goals, the school’s mission, vision, and values among all teachers. Thus, the enhanced culture of professional communication may foster innovation and consequently result in better productive and instructional outcomes.

Which of Senge’s 5 disciplines would you focus on to move the school towards becoming a learning organization?

Based on the identified inhibiting factors, it seems right to focus on two of Senge’s disciplines: Building Shared Vision, Mental Models, and Team Learning. According to Senge (1990), Mental Models are “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures and images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action” (p. 8). First of all, the concept refers to personal mental constructs, values, and perceptions.

However, it is also directly related to the discipline of Building Shared Vision which implies the development of the organizational culture − a complex of shared, collective values, behaviors, and norms. Team Learning is closely linked to the two mentioned above. It aims to foster collaboration and communication among employees and stimulate them to act together.

Although the three disciplines are deeply interrelated and the differences between them are very subtle, it can be recommended to start the process of change with Team Learning (i.e., establishing the dialogue) and Building Shared Vision (i.e., communicating organizational values, objectives, and mission among teachers). At the initial stage of organizational transformation, it would be better to combine these two focus areas because by reminding the teachers who work in the school for a long time about the school’s vision or maybe introducing them to a new vision, it will be easier to increase their commitment to the improvement endeavors and engage them in the dialogue with new teachers.

The communication and change needs can be addressed at regular staff meetings where employees will be encouraged to express their concerns and propose ideas, evaluate current practices, and discuss topical problems together. These activities will be practiced throughout all six months of the project, whereas the leader will also regularly communicate the school’s vision to teachers. After the first month, it will be possible to move gradually to other focus areas starting from Mental Models and encouraging teachers to engage in self-reflection activities.

Which strategies and approaches would you use and why?

It is possible to implement Lewin’s change management strategy that consists of such steps as

  1. unfreezing (developing the sense of urgency),
  2. changing,
  3. refreezing (consolidating improvements).

At the first stage, it is important to make teachers aware of the need for change through communication and information sharing. At the same time, the level of employees’ motivation and commitment will largely depend on the leader’s ability to align their change-related benefits with the organizational ones. According to Schein (2010), communication of a positive vision can help to create psychological safety and increase employees’ willingness to change.

Then, when teachers’ perceptions and attitudes are “unfrozen,” it will be possible to undertake the actual measures for behavioral and structural changes. The second stage in the modification process includes active learning, development of new organizational standards, etc. (Schein, 2010). Finally, the principal will need to refreeze the cognitive restructuring results to maintain new patterns of behavior. One of the best ways to do so is to create an efficient motivation and reward system that would recognize employees’ efforts and stimulate them to repeat the desirable behavior.

The given strategy is selected because it can help to resolve problems of resistance to change. The teachers who have been working in the school for a long time prefer to maintain the status quo. Such an attitude hinders organizational development, learning, and innovation. It is possible to say that Lewin’s three-stage model can foster the modernization process and can help to deal with the given situation systematically and effectively.

You should refer to at least two of Senge’s disciplines

As it was mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the problems identified in the school refer to such disciplines as Team Learning and Building Shared Vision. The analysis of the Scenario reveals that although the teachers may attempt to deliver high-quality education, there is no collective thinking and cohesion in the team and the fact that new teachers do not understand their professional roles only proves this assumption.

By referring to the mentioned Senge’s disciplines when dealing with this issue, it will be possible to resolve the interpersonal conflicts among teachers and develop a shared understanding of the school’s values in them. It is essential to move away from the outdated and excessively conservative models of behavior promoted in the organization by the previous management and strengthen team cohesion and commitment. Nevertheless, while focusing on collective priorities, it is still important to respect individual opinions yet teach employees how to suspend them in case they contradict the organizational mission.

Additionally, Systems Thinking should be integrated into the change management processes. The given discipline is regarded as the cornerstone of the learning organization, and it requires the development of a holistic and integrated picture of the school’s functions and operations. It means that each person, action, and situation should serve to achieve one ultimate goal and should not be neglected by the management. The attainment of this state of integration can be considered the ultimate goal of the learning plan.

Table

What factors seem to be inhibiting individual and collective learning?

Inhibiting factors Individual learning Collective learning
Inappropriate leadership style. Rigidity, strict control, and discipline associated with authoritarian leadership style exclude creative and innovative approaches to education. Moreover, authoritative leaders usually tend to ignore the social-emotional needs of their subordinates and, thus, contribute to the decrease in their job satisfaction and commitment levels. Authoritarianism within organizations is associated with reduced collegiality, trust, communication, and self-discipline. Employees may rely on their leader too much; they abide by rules and do not undertake efforts to change and learn new things.
Downward communication pattern, and poor culture of interpersonal and professional interactions. Individuals may not receive personal feedbacks and find solutions to the questions they have. As a result, they remain uncertain about professional roles, and functions, as well as directions for professional development. Contrary to horizontal and cross-sectional communication, the given style of employee interactions does not allow generating unusual combinations of ideas that could foster imagination and creativity. Additionally, it may not support the free flow of information and can, thus, interfere with efficient knowledge management.
Poor team cohesion and the lack of collaboration. Individuals feel unsupported and uncertain. Thus, they are less committed to learning. There is a high risk of conflict occurrence. Teachers have personal assumptions that drive their behavior and do not consider the collective vision.

Which of Senge’s 5 disciplines would you focus on to move the school towards becoming a learning organization?

Senge’s 5 disciplines (place them in order with first to the end) Explain the discipline In what way it will help towards becoming a learning organization Time frame
Building Shared Vision The discipline refers to leadership activities aimed to increase organizational “capacity to hold a shared picture of the future” they seek to create (Senge, 1990, p. 9). It implies the development of a clear understanding of collective vision, mission, and values and the consequent reinforcement of these concepts through policies and regular communication. By creating a favorable culture, the management will be able to change employees’ attitudes. The school vision will guide teachers and stimulate their commitment to learning and change. Month 1-Month 6
Team Learning It combines both individuals’ professional skills and their understanding of the collective vision. Moreover, it requires continual dialogue aimed to resolve issues that interfere with the realization of organizational goals. The discipline aims to foster collaboration and communication among employees and stimulate them to act together. Month 1-Month 6
Mental Models Generally speaking, the discipline aims to develop professional identities and ideas in employees that would conform to the organizational value system and stimulate them to behave desirably. By forming mental images, changing perceptions of work procedures, and removing those psychological constructs which interfere with both the organization’s growth and individual development within it, teachers will accelerate the process of change and learning. Month 2-Month 3
Systems Thinking The given discipline fuses the other four. It requires the development of a holistic and integrated picture of the school’s functions and operations, as well as the consideration of each employee, action, and situation because every small element is essential for the achievement of sustainable long-term results. The holistic approach allows identifying potential risks and areas which require improvement and which may not be considered as significant at first. By looking at things from a wide-angle, the principal and the teachers will be able to detect the problems when they are still in the rudiment and, in this way, mitigate possible negative impacts and increase the chance of acquiring more benefits. Month 3-Month 4
Personal Mastery Discipline refers to individual professional growth and improvement. Overall, it refers to the independent work of every employee and his or her efforts to enhance their performance and refine the professional vision and other personal qualities. “Organizations learn only through individuals who learn” (Senge, 1990, p. 139). By engaging in continual self-education and self-reflection, teachers will be able to identify their growth areas and develop competence. In this way, they will also contribute to the improvement of the overall school performance. Month 5-Month 6

Which strategies and approaches would you use and why?

Name the strategies and approaches Details including reasons for choosing that process and/or approach Example to support the chosen strategy and approach
Lewin’s three-stage change management model Some of the teachers in the Scenario seem to be resistant to changes and reluctant to communicate on them. The selected model is appropriate for dealing with this kind of situation as it establishes a sense of urgency that may motivate employees’ engagement in the process of learning. The more people think that the change is necessary, the more they are stimulated to embrace it. To achieve this, the principal may conduct the research and collect evidence on potential detrimental effects of poorly developed school culture on students’ academic performance. For instance, the results of the study by Macneil, Prater, and Busch (2009) reveal that, in better school cultures and climates, educators are more motivated and committed and, thus, demonstrate better instructional abilities. This and similar information, as well as the results of the internal environmental school assessment, may be used to show teachers the importance of learning and change.

You should refer to at least two of Senge’s disciplines.

Name Senge’s disciplines How does it refer to the Scenario
Team Learning As it is mentioned in the Scenario, “the teachers are not used to working collaboratively;” they are not supportive of new teachers who try to come up with new ideas, and do not speak up during meetings. To become the learning organization, they need to understand how to think together and take into account the ideas which may have a favorable effect on the organizational future.
Building Shared Vision The very conflict between the new teachers and those who work longer indicates the lack of shared vision and values. The former group seems to show more willingness to excel and learn, while the latter tends to maintain the status quo and does not want to change anything. A shared vision is needed to resolve this conflict, increase team cohesion, and make teachers’ assumptions more coherent.
Systems Thinking The root of all problems identified in the Scenario is the inefficient organizational structure (i.e., leadership model, communication patterns, methods of knowledge management, and so on). Systems Thinking discipline implies the accountability of all these structural elements and many other factors affecting organizational performance and individuals’ work. It can help to establish the organizational structure that would make collaboration and sharing of knowledge possible.

References

Macneil, A., Prater, D., & Busch, S. (2009). The effects of school culture and climate on student achievement. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 12(1), 73–84.

Örtenblad, A. (2001). On differences between organizational learning and learning organization. The Learning Organization, 8(3), 125-133. Web.

Schein, E. H. (2010). Jossey-Bass business and management: Organizational culture and leadership (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

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