MANAGEMT 7033 - The Learning Organisation

North Terrace Campus - Summer - 2015

The objectives of this course are: 1) to realise that there are forces that are reshaping workplaces and pressing managers to consider the role of learning in organisations; 2) to realise that learning occurs and may be analysed in different ways and different contexts; 3) to realise that there are many different elements, processes and skills involved in implementing a learning organisation; 4) to realise that organisational learning is interrelated with most organisational and management goals; 5) to realise that the strategies for building learning organisations may vary with particular theoretical sets and mental models of the process.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code MANAGEMT 7033
    Course The Learning Organisation
    Coordinating Unit Business School
    Term Summer
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites MANAGEMT 7086
    Course Description The objectives of this course are: 1) to realise that there are forces that are reshaping workplaces and pressing managers to consider the role of learning in organisations; 2) to realise that learning occurs and may be analysed in different ways and different contexts; 3) to realise that there are many different elements, processes and skills involved in implementing a learning organisation; 4) to realise that organisational learning is interrelated with most organisational and management goals; 5) to realise that the strategies for building learning organisations may vary with particular theoretical sets and mental models of the process.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Peter Sandiford

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On completion of this course candidates will be able to:

    1) explore the factors that influence the reshaping of employees, workplaces and organisations from a learning perspective.
    2) critically analyse and apply different theories of learning at individual and organisational levels.
    3) reflect on personal learning and development strategies, approaches and preferences in relation to organisational and individual needs.
    4) Analyse and evaluate knowledge management strategies in work organisations.
    5) plan and develop strategies and management practice for building learning organisations.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 5
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 1,2,4
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 1.5
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 3,4
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1,3
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 3
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 1,5
  • Learning Resources
    Recommended Resources
    Students may wish to read more widely in specific subject areas, something that the BUSINESS SCHOOL wholeheartedly encourages. This is especially important when researching for written assignments and presentations. Such publications can be found in the library catalogue and various subject databases available through the library (eg Business Source Complete, EBSCO, Emerald Fulltext etc). You can also identify relevant sources through class reference lists (on powerpoint presentations) and bibliographies/reference lists of key sources.

    There are many general texts on organisations learning and related subjects that candidates may find useful. Perhaps of greatest assistance though are readings from leading academic journals, current business journals and the better newspapers. Relevant journals include, but are not limited to:

    Academy of Management Learning & Education
    Human Relations
    Management Learning
    Work, Employment and Society
    The Learning Organization
    Action Learning
    Harvard Business Review
    Action Learning: Research and Practice
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The Learning Organisation is a face-to-face seminar course offered in intensive mode and supplemented by communication via MyUni.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.
    In addition to the class-based learning sessions and formal assessment tasks, candidates are required to complete the preparatory readings and exercises prior to each class.
    Learning Activities Summary
    Class sessions will generally be a mix of content provision, class discussion and activities such as role plays or scenario analysis. Participants will maximise their learning during the course if they draw on their experience of working and learning (and playing) in different kinds of organisations. This approach requires a mixture or theoretical learning and application of theory to explore, analyse, diagnose and solve real-life organisational challenges.

    The course content integrates material from a wide variety of subject areas, notably organisational studies and management. Although familiarity with these areas can be useful, the course is designed to provide sufficient introduction to these to not require prior knowledge.

    It is essential to recognise that this course addresses some important and sensitive issues around the experience of work in organisations. All candidates are expected to participate in a spirit of cooperation, support and ‘safety’; group discussions can often raise difficult and personal issues related to the challenges of professional life and all participants should treat any such discussions as confidential and limited only to the classroom itself.

    Sessions and indicative content:

    The structure indicated here is relatively flexible and we will explore many facets of learning within the syllabus ideas and theories from all areas of organisational studies will be discussed in relation to organisational learning and learning organisations. An important element of this course will be candidates own experiences of working in organisations. Real-life and practical examples are essential to make the most of the course.

    There are four main elements to our learning during the course:
    1: Reading (and other preparation tasks) and class material provided by the lecturer (ie ideas and theories provided during classes and on myuni)
    2: Group discussions (small group and plenary) based around critique and application of theory. These give us the opportunity to apply theory to more personal/professional examples from our own experience.
    3: Ongoing classwork ‘tasks’ notably based around the course case study.
    4: Candidate input (as presenters AND as participants/learners) through ‘formal’ presentations on day 6.

    Day 1: The theory and practice of learning

    Indicative content:
    Reflecting on and analysing learning approaches;
    Learning as change; change as learning
    Learning as research; research as learning
    Human Development (change and learning as life stages)
    Learning to learn


    Course case study: La Napoli

    This case study provides a little focus for the course activities. Candidates’ learning is intensive throughout the course and using this case gives us the opportunity to apply ideas and theories to an organisation as a group of cooperative learners. It is set in an international context to provide the additional enrichment of a context that is somewhat different to the Australian/Singaporean setting. As with all written cases of this kind, the ‘story’ is incomplete and may well include the sort of complications and contradictions we often experience in organisational life. During classes we will aim to see how far theories of learning and models of the learning organisation help us to address some of the issues/challenges facing La Napoli’s management. To prepare for this, read through the case and make initial notes about learning related problems that you can identify. Only one rule (for the moment) your initial ideas must NOT include the dismissal of any employees currently working for La Napoli (indicating that we are not seeking to identify personal BLAME anywhere). Key factors to consider in your preparation would be:

    • what is the current ‘state of play’ at La Napoli (a short paragraph summarising the situation NOW – not the history would be helpful here)?
    • what information is missing/what do we need to find out in order to diagnose key problems?
    • (related to this) what key assumptions would you make about the case organisation?

    Huczynski, AA & Buchanan, DA. (2013) Organizational Behaviour, Eighth edition, Harlow, UK: Pearson. Chapter 5, Learning, pp. 153-184.

    This reading is taken from one of the better known textbooks on Organisational Behaviour. It introduces learning from an OB perspective and seems to ‘set-up’ our course very well. Over the next few learning sessions we will discuss many of the ideas presented here in a lot more detail, so it is useful preparation for the course as a whole, not just the first learning session.

    As you read the chapter make a note of any ideas and theories that you find particularly interesting or relevant; can you think of specific examples of learning (your own or your employees) in your own organisation that resonate with the theories presented here?

    Day 2: Organisational learning (1) – formal learning in (for?) organisations

    Indicative content
    Skills and competences
    What ‘skills’ and abilities do we need now? What will we need in the future?
    Education and training; lifelong learning; learning for employability
    Employee/management development
    Learning ‘outcomes’ at work; competency approaches to learning

    Three relatively short papers that look at learning from different perspectives; not limited to in-job training, think about the three types of learning discussed here.

    Smith, E. (2010). A review of twenty years of competency‐based training in the Australian vocational education and training system. International journal of training and development, 14(1), 54-64.

    A relatively ambitious article looking back on two decades of competency focused college based training. What experience have you had of such programs? Did you study this sort of program or have you employed anyone with such training? What are your opinions about the pros and cons of this approach?

    Ramsey, C. (2010). Developing a scholarship for negotiated, work based learning, Final report from the Practice-based Professional Learning Centre funded project, PBPL Paper 47.

    This paper can be downloaded from the PBPL by searching for its title in google scholar. What do you think about Ramsey’s work on NWBL? How useful do you think this would be for your own organisation? Do you already engage in this sort of negotiated learning?

    Sandiford, P. J., Macdonald, S., Robinson, I., Davenport, H., Elliott, G. And Hicks, L.(2002) ‘Re-designing and integrating a transferable skills module: reflections on practice,’ paper presented at ELSIN 2002, Gent University, June16-18.

    This is a short paper I presented more than a decade ago. How do you react to the ideas presented in the paper? Do you think this sort of ‘formalised’ teaching of (mostly) tacit study skills would be useful to students starting out in Higher Education? Did you experience any such ‘teaching’?

    Think about (and list) the sort of tacit knowledge/skills that you have developed during your own studies. How did you learn them? How do you think you could you have learnt them more effectively?


    Day 3: Organisational learning (2) – informal/less formal/individualised learning in organisations

    Indicative content
    It is not always easy to differentiate (objectively) between informal and formal learning (as was also suggested in day 2 regarding tacit knowledge and learning).

    Today we’ll focus more on social learning (Socialisation, enculturation etc) and development (professional and personal). This will relate more to informal aspects of learning (and tacit knowledge in organisations). Key concepts here include: Work-based learning (although this also relates to NWBL from yesterday); situated learning; communities of practice; narrative and storytelling.


    Reissner, SC. (2008) Chapter 2, Change, learning, narrative and making sense, in Narratives of Organisational Change and Learning: Making Sense of Testing Times (pp.11-28). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

    This chapter gives a useful introduction to the use of storytelling in organisations as an example of informal (and potentially messy) learning. Think of some specific examples of stories you have been told or have told yourself at work and how they helped make sense of phenomena. Select one story of learning and change that you can share with the class, anonymising individuals to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

    Seymour, D. & Sandiford, P. J. (2005) ‘Learning emotion rules in English public houses: socialization and training’, Work, Employment and Society 19(3), 547-564.

    A familiar name here...

    This article refers to my Doctoral research on the emotions of pub workers. I was particularly interested in the idea of emotional labour, a concept introduced in the 1980s and increasingly popular in the OB and management literature. The main message is really linked to the idea that organisations often rely on employees to be aware of social norms and rules that apply in life and at work. Some may try to train specific behaviours, but these can be at odds with more broadly socialised ‘rules’. Diane and I focused on the more informal ways that employees learn how to behave towards each other and their customers.

    How far do the ideas here resonate with your own experiences at work? Try to identify one or two specific rules (not necessarily emotion rules) that you would expect new employees to be aware of that relate to your particular area of work and employing organisation; perhaps this is a little like the dangerous idea of ‘common sense’ (dangerous because very little sense is common to everyone – and what are the implications of sense being uncommon?). Can you think of any stories of individuals who did not share those rules after joining your organisation?


    Day 4: Learning organisations – organisations as learners

    Indicative content
    Defining and creating learning organisations
    Action learning as organisational learning
    Transforming learning philosophies into practical reality – management practice as learning practice


    Jackson (2002), International HRM, London: Sage, chapter six, The Learning Organization: The British Model, pp.127-146.

    This book is held electronically by the UoA library, so you can find it in the library catalogue online and log in to access it. This chapter takes a cross-cultural view of the learning organisation, but I think it is a particularly useful introduction to the concept, drawing on various theoretical ideas (some of which we will have already discussed), framed around a well known case-organisation (BP). This chapter (like many other influential papers on the subject) is hardly new. It would probably be a useful exercise to briefly see if you can ‘fill-in’ the more recent history of BP in relation to the idea of a learning organisation, though even in its 2002-and-before form it is a helpful organisation to illustrate Jackson’s ideas here.

    Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization, Revised Ed.. London: Random House. Chapter 1, ‘Give me a lever long enough ... and single handed I can move the world’, pp4-16.

    Senge’s work has been influential in the field for more than two decades now. This (relatively short) chapter is taken from a revised edition of his seminal text on Learning organisations and serves to introduce his book (and LOs) pretty well. Unlike Jackson’s chapter, you will find this a little more prescriptive (perhaps proscriptive at times too) – as Jackson was more analytic (seeking to explore and understand the concept from an academic perspective); his work can take on an almost prosletizing tone that can give the impression of an organisational guru rather than a scholarly academic (ie he explains how to become a learning organisation).

    Have a look at his five ‘disciplines’ – how does your employing organisation ‘measure up’ to these?

    Jensen, J. (2014). City Libraries Townsville as a learning organisation within a local government framework. The Australian Library Journal, (ahead-of-print), 1-9.

    An interesting application of learning organisation in an Australian setting. What are your thoughts about Jensen’s early assertion (in the abstract) that ‘Public libraries do not fit Peter Senge’s model of a learning organisation’? Is this a valid point or a little pedantic? As a public organisation, do you think the same ideas presented here would fit as clearly (or maybe more so) in a privately owned organisation? How can innovation and creativity be realistically ‘valued’ in organisations?


    Day 5: Managing learning and knowledge management: Maintaining and enhancing the learning organisation

    Indicative content
    Reflective practice
    Action Research
    Policies, strategies and practice in learning organisations
    Internship; Apprenticeship
    Tactical management
    Designing programs for effective learning

    Integrating formal and informal learning at organisational level


    Nonaka, I. (1994). A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization science, 5(1), 14-37.

    Although written three decades ago this article remains influential today. It conceptualises knowledge creation within organisations as an ongoing spiral (somewhat more ‘dynamically’ than the cycle alternative (such as Kolb’s learning cycle). Reflect on your experiences at work and try to identify examples of the types of learning indicated by Nonanka (ie tacit-tacit; tacit-explicit; explicit-explicit; explicit to tacit).

    Davies, H. & Sandiford P.J. (2014) ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation by Sandwich Year Interns in the National Health Service’, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 66(1), 56-73.

    This article was based on research in the UK, looking at medium term work placements or internships. It focuses on a particular application of organisational learning that could also contribute to maintenance of learning organisations. At first glance this article would certainly fit into day 3 (informal organisational learning), though it has elements of formal learning too (eg applying explicit knowledge). Try to identify other ways that internships like this can indeed make up a part of an organisation’s ongoing learning strategy, beyond simply offering work-experience to students. Look for ‘clues’ in the practices, activities, stakeholder attitudes etc that can suggest elements of a learning organisation at work. You might find key concepts such as situated learning, legitimate peripheral participation and communities of practice useful and relevant with this task.

    Kearney, J., & Zuber-Skerritt, O. (2012). From learning organization to learning community: Sustainability through lifelong learning. Learning Organization, 19(5), 400-413.

    As a final ‘guided’ reading for the course, this article goes beyond the Learning Organisation, exploring the implications of some of the key ideas we’ve discussed for the wider context, specifically the broader community. What do you think of this application of LO ideas? Have you come across similar examples in your own community(ies) ‘away’ from work?


    Day 6: Presentations

    Candidates will be arranged in small groups during the first day of the course and these groups will work on specific tasks which will be presented to the whole class on day 6.
    Specific Course Requirements
    Individual assessment: A minimum of seventy percent (70%) of the total value of a course’s assessment will be devoted to individually submitted work, which will be in the form of assignments. In the Learning Organisation Group assessment tasks have a maximum 30% weighting.

    In addition to achieving a course mark of at least 50%, MBA students need to attain an average of fifty percent (50%) across all the individually assessed items, considered as a whole, in order to pass the course
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Percentage of Total Mark

    Reflective learning statement one: 10%

    Reflective learning statement two: 20%

    Group seminar/workshop activity Lecturer mark: 20%
    Peer mark: 10%

    Time constrained assignment: 40%
    Assessment Related Requirements
    To pass this course candidates are required to achieve an overall average of at least 50% and a mark of at least 50% for each piece of assessed coursework
    Assessment Detail
    Reflective learning statement one 10%

    Reflective learning statement two 20%

    In line with the ideal of the reflective practitioner as a part of the learning organisation. Each week candidates will submit one reflective learning statement exploring their learning during one of the three hour learning sessions. In week one this will be submitted before 9:00am on the Saturday of week one (ie 17th Jan) and will be based on ONE of the FIRST FOUR sessions (ie one morning or afternoon class from the first two days). The second learning statement will be submitted before 9:00am on the Saturday of week 2 (ie 24th Jan) and will be based on ONE of the PRECEDING SIX SESSIONS (ie one morning or afternoon class from the preceding three days). The candidate is responsible for selecting the session and topic to reflect on.

    Each learning statement must include:
    1. a brief account of the preparation for the session. This should include some discussion of relevant theory from your reading and address some of the questions posed in the course profile.
    2. a discussion of the class session itself. This should focus on particular aspects of the class that you found interesting, helpful and/or challenging.
    3. post-session reflection on their learning about the topic covered by the session. Ideally this should draw from your own organisational experience (eg at work) and consider how the learning experience could potentially enhance your work-life.

    The learning statements must include relevant theory and a minimum of one quality research source (eg a refereed journal article, research monograph or refereed conference paper but NOT a student textbook or unrefereed webpage, newspaper or magazine); any such unrefereed sources may be included as additional references but NOT as the minimum quality research source. Any statement not including a quality research source will receive a maximum of 49%

    Learning statements should include approximately 1000 words and must be referenced following the Harvard system or referencing.

    The weighting of the two learning statements is designed to reflect the candidates‘ familiarity with the assessment task, so the second statement will receive a higher overall weighting as they will have received some feedback on their first attempt.

    I will provide an example learning statement (based on a learning session from another subject area) to provide some guidance, although the actual format and structure of the statement is flexible as long as all the key content is included (above); the assessment criteria are detailed below.

    Assessment criteria
    • Critical evaluation of relevant theory/research evidence
    • Personal reflection on learning experiences (Acknowledgement of challenging aspects of learning; application of theory to real world experience; specific examples to illustrate concepts/ideas/theories
    • Appropriate reference support
    • Clear expression, correct grammar and punctuation

    Group seminar/workshop activity 30%

    On the final day (ie Saturday 24th Jan) of the course small groups of participants (established on day one) will lead a short seminar based around a specific topic relating to the idea of the learning organisation. The seminar will last for 45 minutes and the group must plan the activities to make effective use of the time available. Each group will make a short oral presentation to introduce the session and any key concepts, theories and activities; they must also lead a seminar activity with their class colleagues and provide a short conclusion and feedback plenary session.

    Each group will be allocated a single learning context to focus on in their seminar. A full list and detailed briefing will be provided on day one of the course.

    20% will be assessed by the Lecturer.
    10% will be assessed by fellow participants in the exercise (ie peer assessment).

    Assessment criteria
    • Critical evaluation of relevant theory/research evidence
    • Clarity of introduction, instructions and concluding feedback
    • Management of the session (eg time management, effective planning)
    • Relevance and quality of materials (eg visual aids, written materials) to the specified task.
    • Appropriate reference support

    Time Constrained assignment 40%

    Participants will be required to complete an individual assignment task in time constrained circumstances.
    A full assignment brief will be provided at 10am on the day of the exercise and the completed written task must be submitted in electronic on myuni OR paper form by 4:30 on the same day. Candidates will be able to use any available resources provided by the university (ie library, IT equipment).
    More information will be provided during classes.
    While the UABS is sensitive to problems that might arise from time to time, students are expected to submit their work by the due date to maintain a fair and equitable system. Extensions will, generally, only be given for medical or other serious reasons. Requests for extensions must be emailed to the lecturer in charge of the course, before the due date, using the appropriate form available from the examinations webpage. Each request will be assessed on its merits. A late assignment (without prior arrangement) will be penalised by a 5% mark reduction for each day that it is late.

    You should submit your individual learning statements on myuni in the assessment folder

    • Please retain a copy of all assignments submitted.
    • Please attach an ‘Assignment Cover Sheet’, which is signed and dated by you before submission.

    Lecturers can refuse to accept assignments, which do not have a signed acknowledgement of the University’s policy on plagiarism.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

    This is the first year that this course has been offered, so no previous SELTs have been conducted for The Learning Organisation.
  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.