Social and Organisational Learning and Unlearning in a Different Key

An Introduction to the Principles of Critical Learning Theatre and Dialectical Inquiry
  • Susan Weil


This paper explores central concepts and principles associated with my development of two interrelated interventionist methodologies: ‘critical learning theatre’ (CLT) and ‘dialectical inquiry’ (DI). These approaches generate critically reflexive organisational learning and ‘unlearning’ processes and capacity to work with and not against paradox, uncertainty, and ambiguity. These ‘grounded in practice’ theories have developed from the context of my commitments to organisations working in the service of the public. My concern here is to introduce these processes of collaborative inquiry in order to give renewed meaning to espoused values about social responsibility, social purpose and social outcomes; in ways that transcend narrow understandings of managerialism and efficiency. The learning processes I propose here need to occur at and across boundaries of disciplines, professional groups, organisations and communities. The term ‘unlearning’ is used to signal my concern to go beyond overly simplistic understandings of learning that derive from positivist and modernist views of the world. Largely instrumental and mechanistic understandings of learning continue to prevail in much of the literature on organisational learning, and in the practices of the public sector. My interest is in “transformative learning”. This cannot be understood in terms of mere inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes (see also Argyris and Schon, 1996). The ideas presented here, although not derived from the substantive context of systems theory, are intended to stimulate a dialogue about connections with critical systems thinking, as developed, for example, by Flood and Romm (1996) and Midgley (1992). The concepts and principles will be further developed, differentiated and illustrated in a subsequent paper (Weil, 1997).


Organisational Learning Diversity Management System Practice Critical System Thinking Narrow Understanding 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Weil
    • 1
  1. 1.Nene College of Higher EducationUK

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