Social and Organisational Learning and Unlearning in a Different Key

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

Abstract

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).

Keywords

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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Argyris, C and Schon, D. 1996. Organisational Learning 2. Addison Wesley: Reading.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, B., Gaventa, J. and Peters, J. 1990. We Make the Road by Walking. Temple University Press, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  3. Boal, A. 1985 Theatre of the Oppressed. Trans. CA and ML McBridge. Theatre Communications Group: New York.Google Scholar
  4. Flood, RL and Romm, N.R. 1995. “Diversity Management: Theory in Action”. Systems Practice, 8, 4, 469–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Flood, RL and Romm, N.R. 1996. Diversity Management: Triple Loop Learning. John Wiley: Chichester.Google Scholar
  6. Foucault, M in Gordon, C (ed.). 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977. Harvester: Brighton.Google Scholar
  7. Hawkins, P. 1994. “The Changing View of Learning” in J. Burgoyne Towards the Learning Company. McGraw-Hill: London.Google Scholar
  8. Kosmidou, C and Usher, R. 1992 “Experiential Learning and the Autonomous Subject: A Critical Approach” in D. Wildemeersch and T. Jansen. Adult Education, Experiential Learning and Social Change: The Postmodern Challenge. VTAGroep: Holland.Google Scholar
  9. Midgley, Gerald. 1992. “The Sacred and Profane in Critical Systems Thinking”. Systems Practice, 5, 1, 5–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Mitroff, I and H. Linstone. 1993. The Unbounded Mind: Breaking the Chains of Traditional Business Thinking. Oxford University Press: Oxford.Google Scholar
  11. Moreno, J. 1978. Who Shall Survive: The Theatre of Spontaneity, Sociometry and the Science of Man. 3rd ed. Beacon Press: New York.Google Scholar
  12. Reason, P. 1994 in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln, eds. Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage: London.Google Scholar
  13. Weil, S and McGill, I. eds. 1989. Making Sense of Experiential Learning: Diversity in Theory and Practice. SRHE/OU Press: Milton Keynes.Google Scholar
  14. Weil, S. 1995. “Bringing about Cultural Change in Colleges and Universities: The Power and Potential of Story”, in S. Weil ed. Managing Change from the Top of Universities and Colleges: 10 Personal Accounts. Kogan Page, London.Google Scholar
  15. Weil, S. 1997 forthcoming. “Critical Learning Theatre and Dialectical Inquiry as Social and Organisational Learning and Unlearning In Practice”. Systems Practice, 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations